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Measures against marine litter require quantitative data for the assessment of litter abundance, trends and distribution. While beach litter monitoring has been ongoing in some European areas since years, so far it was yet not possible to obtain an overview and to analyse litter abundance, litter category distribution and trends at the different spatial scales from local to EU.
Therefore, the EU Marine Directors and the Marine Strategy Coordination Group mandated, in the context of the MSFD implementation, to the MSFD Technical Group on Marine Litter and the JRC, the compilation and analysis of an EU beach litter dataset. Aim was to derive EU Marine Beach Litter Baselines at different spatial levels. After collection of European beach litter data from EU Member States via the EMODNET chemistry module database, harmonisation of data formats and data clean-up, a 2012-2016 dataset was derived. Following the spatio-temporal aggregation of data and the identification of possible litter category analysis, different scenarios for baseline setting have been tested and evaluated.
The application of agreed scenario parameters has enabled the calculation of marine beach litter baselines for the years 2015 and 2016 at spatial scales ranging from country and country –region level to sub-regional, regional and EU level. Litter categories have been aggregated and allow analysis of group categories up to EU level, whereas the analysis of single categories could not include all received data due to non-comparable litter type category descriptions.
The resulting set of baselines enables the future monitoring of progress in reduction, as well as compliance checking developed using the dataset. Furthermore, it provides valuable information for future improving harmonised monitoring through updated guidance, common data treatment and agreed data reporting formats.
Beach litter abundance has been found to be very high in large areas of Europe, requiring joint and strong action in Europe and with the neighbours in shared marine basins.

2012-2016 beach survey locations
Number of surveys in different years per region