Wednesday, 17 January 2018 09:11

For a litter free Baltic Sea

Written by  BLASTIC project / Atte Lindqvist
Litter trap in Aura river in Turku, Finland Litter trap in Aura river in Turku, Finland Keep the Archipelago Tidy Association

The BLASTIC project, an EUSBSR Flagship under Policy Area Hazards, aims to reduce plastic waste and, thereby, the inflow of hazardous substances into the Baltic Sea by mapping and monitoring the amounts of litter in the aquatic environment.

Litter is one of the widest spread environmental pressures in the world. When litter reaches the waterways, it becomes a grave issue to our marine ecosystems. The full extent of the issue is something that we yet don’t understand. What we do know is that the litter mostly consists of plastics, which is a dire threat to organisms and entire ecosystems. As previous work has shown, the issue of marine litter does not obey boundaries, nor does it entirely concentrate on specific areas. The issue is global and no ocean, not even our Baltic Sea, is safe from the threat. Therefore, the prevention of further pressure is crucial.

A central goal of the project is to compile a list of pathways and sources as well as recommendations for cost-effective measures to combat marine litter in e.g. the waste and water sector on a municipal level. Methodology for waste inflow monitoring is tested in urban pilot areas to identify the role of different pathways and sources. The results will contribute to one of the main goals of the project: a checklist on best practices to prevent marine litter to be used by the municipal authorities.

During the year 2017, BLASTIC's foremost activities included the monitoring of the pilot areas, which received a lot of media attention and raised awareness for the general cause, something that we consider to be a vital part of the battle against marine littering. The principle for the monitoring was quite straightforward: a litter trap consisting of a boom and net was placed in a water way and the trapped litter items were collected and categorized. To educate a younger audience, a booklet intended to be used in schools and kindergartens was published and was translated to all partner country languages.   

SEI tallinnSEI Tallinn installing litter traps in Pirita river and giving an interview to the Estonian National Broadcasting daily news programme in July 2017.
Photos by SEI Tallinn.


The updating of the BLASTIC homepage will continue throughout 2018. When finalized, the webpage will contain the recommendations established by the project and a complete knowledge bank with vital information concerning the subject. The project will also continue to update its blog with relevant topics and guest authors. We have had the good fortune to receive blog contributions from several visiting authors from different fields of expertise, including some of the leading politicians in Finland and Estonia. The interest we’ve received from different fields of expertise shows that marine litter is an environmental issue that is receiving more and more public attention. This is evident also through the several events BLASTIC has been represented, most notably the Our Oceans Conference in Malta.

Lastly, as a cherry on top of the cake, a checklist for mapping sources and pathways of marine litter was finalized. Through testing the methodology at the four pilot areas, vital inputs concerning mapping the sources was applied in the checklist. The checklist will be translated to respective partner languages and to be used as an aid by the municipalities.

Next up?

We will continue the good work by kicking off the year 2018 with a social media campaign during early spring, to reach out to the public and to raise awareness. Further monitoring of the pilot areas has been agreed upon and will be conducted later in the spring. At the end of the year we will finalize our work through gathering every piece of knowledge we’ve gained through our work and create guidelines for the municipalities to follow. Hopefully, we will see the outcomes in good use in the near future!

How BLASTIC project contributes to the objectives of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region?

We asked from the Policy Area Hazards Coordinator:

"With the European Commission launching a ‘Strategy on plastics in a circular economy’ just this January 2018 the project BLASTIC is already well on its way to support the implementation of this ambitious EU strategy by actively addressing a number of actions helping to reach the vision for Europe’s new plastics economy.

In BLASTIC, countries are engaging and cooperating to halt the flow of plastics into the oceans and taking remedial action against plastics waste already accumulated. Best practices are disseminated widely, scientific knowledge improves, citizens are mobilized and cities become cleaner. Furthermore the project is contributing to a better understanding of origin, routes of travel and effects on human health.

BLASTIC is by all means a frontrunner project on the issue of plastics and marine litter and the Baltic Sea region again serves as model cooperation for the whole of Europe. This is why we as Policy Area Coordinator see BLASTIC as a true flagship in the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea region."

- Maxi Nachtigall, Policy Area Hazards Coordinator, Swedish Environmental Protection Agency

Keep the Archipelago Tidy association 2Raising awareness is crucial in battling marine litter. A campaign by the River Aura in Turku, Finland in summer 2017.
Photo by Keep the Archipelago Tidy Association.

BLASTIC project is co-funded by the Interreg Central Baltic Programme and it is led by Keep Sweden TIdy. Project partners include Keep the Archipelago Tidy Association (FIN), Stockholm Environmental Institute Tallinn (EST), Finnish Environment Institute, IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, Tallinn city government, City of Turku and Foundation for Environmental Education Latvia.

More information about the BLASTIC project:

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