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EU Blue Economy Observatory
News announcement27 March 20242 min read

Regulating marine litter from source to sea

With an estimated 19-23 million tonnes entering aquatic environments, urgent action is set to be taken, particularly in light of this volume, which is expected to increase to 54 million tonnes by 2030.

Hence, the goal of the EU Mission: Restore our Ocean and Waters by 2030 is to reduce plastic litter at sea by at least 50 % and cut microplastics released into the environment by 30 %, in line with the EU Zero Pollution Action Plan. By developing, demonstrating and deploying innovative solutions, the Mission will help prevent and eliminate pollution and protect and restore aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity.

In addition, the 2030 EU Biodiversity Strategy, which forms a core part of the European Green Deal, aims to restore ocean health. The target is to protect 30% of the EU’s seas by 2030, including 10 % under strict protection. To meet these challenges, EU-funded researchers are investigating how plastics are transported to the ocean, as well as sustainable, biodegradable alternatives for plastic packaging, enhanced waste and wastewater management, and improved recycling methods.

A plastic-free ocean

This new CORDIS Results Pack presents 12 EU-funded Horizon research projects that are helping to reduce the impact of marine litter from source to sea through prevention, elimination, mitigation, and monitoring.

The Pack showcases their potential for exploitation, scale-up, replication and uptake by different stakeholders responsible for implementing measures to reduce pollution at the local and regional levels. The results will contribute to the EU’s goal of cutting plastic pollution to levels no longer considered harmful to health and natural ecosystems, respecting the boundaries within which our planet can cope, thus creating a toxic-free environment.

Further EU research initiatives 

The LimnoPlast and PlasticPiratesEU projects collected data, together with young people and citizens, on plastic pollution in rivers and coasts across Europe to prevent it from entering the ocean.

EUROqCHARM validated methods, reference materials, and harmonised protocols to monitor and combat plastic pollution. MONPLAS trained early-stage researchers to develop technologies for detecting microplastics and their effects on human health and the environment.

B4PNow has developed a water-soluble, fully bio-based material for household applications as an alternative to plastic.

EcoFLEXY designed a fully compostable biomaterial for packaging made from cellulose produced by bacteria, which can replace plastic.

VORTEX identified specific microorganisms capable of breaking down different types of plastic. The LEON-T project modelled the dispersion and environmental fate of microplastic emissions from tyres and developed new tyres to reduce emissions.

Glaukos and SEALIVE created new biodegradable and compostable materials with faster biodegradation rates for use in fishing nets, crates, and clothing.

Finally, In-No-Plastic developed cleanup tools for removing plastics from the marine environment and industrial waters, and SeaClear developed autonomous robots for underwater litter collection.

More information


Publication date
27 March 2024