Making the invisible visible: Plastic trash is collecting in our coastal sea beds

Published: 27 March 2018

Marine litter items, especially plastics such as bags, bottles and fishing related debris, were commonly found on the seabed in the coastal seas of North West Europe during 1992 and 2017.

Marine litter items, especially plastics such as bags, bottles and fishing related debris, were commonly found on the seabed in the coastal seas of North West Europe during 1992 and 2017. Some areas contain up to 1830 items of litter per km−2 of seafloor, while high counts (>100 counts items km−2) were also detected in samples from parts off the Dutch and Danish coasts, amongst other areas.  The study shows that large amounts of plastic debris exist on the seafloor, the final destination of floating marine plastics.

Seafloor litter data

The monitoring survey, the longest and most comprehensive of its kind, is published in the journal Science of the Total Environment. The study analysed seafloor litter data collected over a 25 year period during 39 independent scientific surveys. The data were collected by the UK Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas). Deltares together with VU, CEFAS and other UK organisations have participated in the scientific publication.

Negative trend in plastic bags in Greater North Sea

Statistically significant trends were observed in specific plastic litter categories. These trends were all positive except for a negative trend in plastic bags in the Greater North Sea – suggesting that behavioural and legislative changes could reduce the problem of marine litter.