Members' Research Service By / July 11, 2018

Single-use plastics and fishing gear: Reducing marine litter [EU Legislation in Progress]

Most of the plastic in our oceans originates from land-based sources. On European beaches, plastics make up 80-85 % of marine litter, which is considered a major threat to marine and coastal biodiversity. Marine litter also costs the European Union economy an estimated €259 million to €695 million per year.

© Arcansél / Fotolia

Written by Vivienne Halleux (4th edition, updated on 17.6.2019),

Marine pollution: plastic waste on the beach.
© Arcansél / Fotolia

Most of the plastic in our oceans originates from land-based sources. On European beaches, plastics make up 80-85 % of marine litter, which is considered a major threat to marine and coastal biodiversity. Marine litter also costs the European Union economy an estimated €259 million to €695 million per year.

In May 2018, the European Commission put forward a legislative proposal seeking to address the issue of marine litter from plastics. The proposal would introduce a series of measures regarding the top 10 single-use plastics found on European beaches, as well as fishing gear, with a view to reducing their impact on the environment and ensuring a functional internal market.

After completion of the legislative procedure, the final act was signed by the presidents of the co-legislators (European Parliament and Council) on 5 June 2019, and published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 12 June 2019. Member States have two years (i.e. until 3 July 2021) to transpose the new directive into national law.

Interactive PDF

Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment
Committee responsible: Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) COM(2018) 340, 28.5.2018

2018/0172(COD)

Ordinary legislative procedure (COD) (Parliament and Council on equal footing – formerly ‘co-decision’)

Rapporteur: Frédérique Ries (ALDE, Belgium)
Shadow rapporteurs: Karl-Heinz Florenz (EPP, Germany)
Massimo Paolucci (S&D, Italy)
Mark Demesmaeker (ECR, Belgium)
Lynn Boylan (GUE/NGL, Ireland)
Margrete Auken (Greens/EFA, Denmark)
Piernicola Pedicini (EFDD, Italy)
Procedure completed. Directive (EU) 2019/904
OJ L 155, 12.6.2019, pp. 1–19


Marine litter on EU beaches, by count (2016)
Marine litter on EU beaches, by count (2016)

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