final scoping paper by o489H3


                            NORTHERN IRELAND

                                       SCOPING PAPER
1.    The Minister hosted the first Northern Ireland Good Beach Summit on 29 June
      2011. The Summit brought together representatives from central government,
      local government and the voluntary sector, including representatives from eight
      of Northern Ireland’s coastal councils, Tidy Northern Ireland, the National Trust
      and the Marine Conservation Society.
2.    A key outcome of the Summit was the Minister’s proposal to look at
      “approaches to dealing with the problem of coastal litter, with a view to possibly
      developing a marine litter strategy”.

3.    The purpose of this paper is to explore the extent of the problem of marine litter
      and to examine the need for a Marine Litter Strategy and associated Action
      Plan for Northern Ireland. The paper will consider:
               the sources of marine litter;
               the problems caused by the presence of marine litter;
               national and international drivers for managing marine litter; and
               interfaces with other litter management measures.

Definition of Marine Litter
4.    Marine litter consists of items arising from human activity, deliberately discarded
      or unintentionally lost, which end up in the sea and on beaches and coastlines.
      It is any persistent, manufactured or processed solid material discarded,
      disposed of or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment. 1 Typical
      examples are plastics, wood, metals, glass, rubber, fishing gear, clothing and
      paper. Semi-solid remains of various oils and other chemicals sometimes occur
      in the sea and on shore but these are not defined as litter.2

Sources of Marine Litter
5.    Marine litter can be found on the coast, in the water column and on the seabed.
      Much of the litter is deposited by incoming tides along the shoreline, whilst sand
      dunes, groynes, rocky areas and promenades also act as traps, allowing wind-
      blown litter to accumulate3.

  Marine Strategy Framework Directive : Task Group 10 Report Marine Litter
  Northern Ireland State of the Seas Report-
  Northern Ireland State of the Seas Report-

6.       Research suggests that nearly 80% of marine debris originates from a terrestrial
         source4. This means that terrestrial measures such as changing attitudes to
         littering, increasing recycling and the reuse of plastic products are necessary to
         truly tackle the issue. The table below presents the main sources of marine litter
         in the UK.
         Table 1 UK sources of litter found in the Marine Environment.
            Marine based sources                       Land based sources
            Fishing.                                   Tourism.
            Commercial fishermen discard or lose Beachgoers leave plastic bags, food
            nets, lines, pots, gloves, galley waste, wrappers, cigarettes, plastic
            plastic containers etc.                  containers, cans, toys etc.

            Shipping.                                  Municipal waste.
            Galley waste (plastic bottles etc),    Solid household waste, paper,
            cargo (including packaging materials), plastics etc, windblown from landfills
            non-oily engine room waste, military   or transported via rivers.
            items dumped intentionally or lost at
            sea etc.
            Pleasure craft.                            Storm water and sewage outfalls.
            Recreational boaters may discard           Domestic waste carried by run-off
            garbage such as bags, packaging,           water generated from heavy rains.
            sewage, fishing gear etc.                  Sewage overflows in treatment plants
                                                       resulting from heavy rains.
            Offshore oil and gas platforms.            Industrial waste.
            May deliberately or accidentally           Plastic wastes such as nurdles5 (2-
            release items such as drilling             6mm diameter) lost during
            equipment, safety gear, storage            production, transport and processing.
            drums etc.
            Mariculture.                               Fish Processing
            Activities may result in the intentional   Fish processing can generate varying
            or accidental release of nets, cages,      quantities of solid waste and
            feed bags etc.                             wastewater with primary
                                                       screening/filtering to remove solids;
                                                       and is typically discharged into the
                                                       marine or into municipal sewers.

7.       There are two main datasets for coastal litter in Northern Ireland; NIEA surveys
         of litter visible on 24 NIEA identified beaches during the bathing season (1 June
         to 15 September annually) and the results of an annual survey undertaken by

    Faris and Hart, 1994
    Nurdles are plastic resin pellets.

      volunteers from the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) over one weekend
      each year: the MCS Beachwatch Big Weekend.
8.    The MCS survey has been undertaken annually since 1993 so some
      comparisons are possible between years. Results from the 2010 MCS survey
      indicate that the density of litter on Northern Ireland beaches has reduced by
      37% from 2009 levels, but is still 19% higher than in 2008.6 Northern Ireland
      levels in 2010 were lower than those in Wales and Scotland in 2010. Overall,
      the survey indicates that litter dropped by the public (public litter) is the main
      source of litter on beaches and in 2010, sewage related debris made up the
      second highest proportion of litter in Northern Ireland.
9.    The NIEA litter assessments are carried out 20 times during the bathing season
      and the parameters used are: sewage related debris, potentially harmful litter
      items, gross litter, general litter, accumulations of litter, oil pollution and the
      occurrence of faeces of non-human origin. The 2010 results show that:
                           62.5% of the beaches were rated grade B (good) in terms of litter
                            deposits; and
                           37.5% were graded C (fair).
10. The NIEA results indicate that there were no consistencies in the amount of
    litter recorded on beaches over the 10-year period 1999-2008, with 2007
    indicating a sharp peak.

                                 Average number of items /km for Northern Irish beaches 1999 - 2008




                              1999    2000     2001     2002       2003          2004   2005   2006   2007   2008

   2009 litter density levels in Northern Ireland had increased by 89% from 2008 levels. The level of
litter density levels in Northern Ireland was 1,122 items/km. Survey data is available from

11. Analysis highlights that 42% of the litter found was packaging (food wrappers,
    carrier bags, and wrapping; both paper and plastic) and 39% was plastics. As
    packaging materials are largely comprised of plastic, we can deduce that the
    majority of the litter found in Northern Ireland’s beaches is made up of plastics.
12. The survey concludes that although 81% of litter on beaches is made up of
    plastic and packaging, due to the generality, of data it is not possible to
    accurately predict the sources as winds and currents can carry litter long
    distances to the most remote beaches.
13. A survey of marine litter in the Irish Sea was undertaken by the Agri-Food and
    Bio-sciences Institute (AFBI) in co-operation with NIEA in 2009. This survey
    included a trawl of the seabed in both the inshore and offshore regions and was
    undertaken between February and August 2009. Data was collected from the
    seabed trawl using 3 data collection methodologies: - scallops survey, ground
    fish survey, and nephrops survey.
14. The scallop dredge survey indicated that coal was the most abundant type of
    litter (37%) in terms of the number of items per km². Transported coal is likely to
    have been present in the marine environment for some time. Plastics were the
    next most abundant type of litter (28%), followed by rubber (15%).
15. The results from the ground fish and nephrops trawls which were undertaken
    further out at sea indicate that plastic was by far the most abundant type of litter
    (89%) with plastic packaging accounting for 65% of all litter collected and 20%
    comprising fishing gear. Coal accounted for 2% of the items trawled.
16. A possible cause for this accumulation of litter was identified as the gyre7 in this
    part of the Irish Sea.

Problems caused by Marine Litter
17. Plastic is the largest component of marine litter. Different types of plastics have
    different properties reflecting their intended uses. For example some plastics
    are less dense than seawater and so are buoyant while others are denser and
    will sink. Once in the environment, plastic gradually breaks down into ever
    smaller particles which can take up to 500 years to decompose fully. Recent
    research suggests that other hazardous chemicals present in the environment
    such as PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls) can adhere to the surface of plastic
    debris, become concentrated and, following ingestion, potentially bio-
    accumulate within the food chain. Some scientists are concerned that these
    persistent contaminants could eventually end up in the human food chain,
    although at present there is uncertainty about the degree to which this poses a
    threat to human and ecosystem health8.
18. Ingesting plastic and becoming entangled in marine litter may be important
    mortality factors for many marine species. Plastic bags are often found in the
    guts of Leatherback turtles washed up on UK shores. On Grassholm Island in

  A gyre is any large system of rotating ocean currents, particularly those involved with large wind
  Arthur et al. 2009, Teuten et al. 2009, Thompson et al. 2009 GESAMP 2010 cited in the UNEP year
book 2011

      the Bristol Channel over 90% of gannet nests contain items of plastic which
      poses the danger of entanglement and death of chicks9.
19. In general the potential chemical effects of plastic are likely to increase with a
    reduction in the size of particles while physical effects such as entanglement of
    seals and other animals in drift plastic, increase with the size and complexity of
    the debris.
20. The introduction of vast quantities of floating debris into the ocean environment
    has also increased the potential for the transportation of invasive species 10 as
    the slow movement of currents means animals and plants attached to litter are
    not subject to temperature shocks as they cross climate zones. This means
    they survive and settle elsewhere. The most commonly found organisms living
    on plastic waste in the oceans include barnacles, polychate worms, bryozoans,
    hydroids and molluscs.
21. Smothering of the seabed by litter is another potential issue, not only the direct
    smothering of organisms but also through the inhibition of gaseous exchanges
    between the sediments and water column, leading to localised anoxic
22. Lost or discarded fishing equipment can also pose a threat in the marine
    environment. Ghost fishing by lost nets or pots can continue for months,
    catching large quantities of marine organisms such as cetaceans, sharks,
    turtles and fish which may place an additional pressure on the viability of
    already stressed fisheries.
23. Sewage related debris in the form of medical and sanitary waste and broken
    glass also constitute a risk to human health.

Socio-economic costs of marine litter
24. Marine litter is a serious affront to the visual and other aesthetic sensitivities of
    tourists and local visitors to beaches11. This is an “aesthetic intangible cost”
    which affects the public’s perception of the quality of the surrounding
    environment and can lead to a loss of tourism and other income.
25. The socio-economic effects of marine litter include costs to local communities in
    terms of clean-up costs. Cleaning beaches and waterways can be expensive; in
    the UK clean-up costs for municipalities have increased by 38% over the last 10
    years.12 Other costs include the costs to fishermen through lost catch and
    snagged nets. Marine litter is also a significant ongoing navigational hazard for
    vehicles, as reflected in the increasing number of coastguard rescues to vessels
    with fouled propellers. There were 286 such rescues in British waters in 2008,
    at a cost of up to £1.8 million13.

Drivers to reduce levels of marine litter
26. There are a number of international, European and national measures in place
    which are aimed at reducing the levels of marine litter.
  Van Franker and Meijboom 2003
   Review of the effects of litter on marine life, OSPAR, 2009
   Marine Strategy Framework Directive : Task Group 10 Report Marine Litter
   Mouat et al. cited in the UNEP year book 2011.

27. The Global Programme of Action (GPA) for the Protection of the Marine
    Environment from Land-based Activities, the secretariat of which is provided by
    the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is a global initiative which
    addresses marine litter in a holistic way. The Programme has developed
    guidelines for marine litter surveys and initiatives like the Global Initiative on
    Marine Litter through regional seas programmes.
28. At an international level the MARPOL Convention14 and the Convention on the
    Pollution from Ships (as modified by the 1996 London Protocol) specifically
    address the issue of marine litter. The MARPOL Convention regulates the types
    and quantities of waste that ships discharge to the marine environment. Under
    Annex V, the disposal of plastics, glass, metal, bottles and packing materials
    into the sea anywhere is prohibited and Governments are obliged to provide
    reception facilities at ports and terminals for the collection of garbage. The
    objectives of the London Protocol are to protect and preserve the marine
    environment from all sources of pollution and to take effective measures to
    prevent, reduce and where practical eliminate pollution caused by dumping or
    incineration at sea of wastes and other matter. The Protocol prohibits dumping
    waste including persistent plastics and other synthetic materials such as netting
    and ropes.
29. The Port Reception Facilities Directive which requires the provision of reception
    facilitates for ship generated waste and cargo residues has resulted in tighter
    controls for ships in ports and at sea. Although globally shipping is still a major
    source of marine litter, within Europe this is no longer the case, because of
    Directives and international agreements such as MARPOL.
30. The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) which requires Member
    States to achieve good environmental status (GES) in their marine waters by
    2020 is yet a further driver for the control of marine litter. The Directive
    prescribes a strategy which Member States must follow to achieve GES. Key
    milestones include:- an initial assessment of the environmental status of marine
    waters and a determination of the characteristics of GES by 2012, and the
    development of a programme of measures by 2014 to achieve GES which must
    be implemented by the end of 2015. Reducing the levels of marine litter to
    levels where the “properties and quantities of marine litter do not cause harm to
    the coastal and marine environments” is a key requirement of GES.
31. Co-ordinated action to achieve GES is a central tenet of MSFD. The Directive
    requires Member States to work within Regional Seas Conventions. The
    OSPAR Convention is a framework for the protection of the North-East Atlantic
    through which the Directive will be implemented. Marine litter has been on the
    agenda of the OSPAR Commission for some time. OSPAR has promoted the
    “Fishing for Litter” initiative as a simple, practical and effective means to reduce
    litter in the marine environment.15
32. “Fishing for Litter” is a project aimed at raising awareness of the significant
    detrimental impact waste can have on the marine environment which uses the
    fishing industry to remove litter from the sea and seabed. The initiative has

   The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1973 as modified by the
Protocol of 1978 (MARPOL 73/78)

     been running successfully in Scotland since 2005 and the numbers of fishermen
     participating have increased from 100 boats and 14 harbours to 162 vessels
     and 17 harbours involved in the 2008-2011 project. In January 2010, the
     Northern Ireland Fishing Harbour Authority commissioned an independent
     environmental review of its 3 harbours. The report of that review identified
     possible resource issues for the Authority in operating a Fishing for Litter
     Scheme. DARD and the Authority are considering these issues with a view to
     identifying a mechanism for introduction of a “Fishing for Litter” project, possibly
     with support from the European Fisheries Fund. This could be a useful tool to
     reduce both the amount of litter entering the marine environment and also assist
     in the removal of existing litter.
33. Litter is a topical issue in Northern Ireland with recent television reports of
    councils spending £34 million in 2010 to remove litter from our streets 16. The
    Northern Ireland Litter Survey 2010 undertaken by TidyNI found that 14% of
    transects were in an unacceptable condition. This represented a significant
    reverse of the trend of improvement over the last 5 years. The survey also
    found that rural areas along with industrial and retail areas were the most highly
    littered land types in Northern Ireland.
34. Northern Ireland does not have a “national” litter prevention strategy, rather
    individual councils undertake anti-litter campaigns, like the “Littering - its not a
    good look” series of posters and radio advertisements placed by Belfast City
    Council. Belfast’s anti-litter campaign is now in its seventh year and research
    indicates that the number of people who admitted to dropping litter had fallen by
35. Co-ordinated strategies like the Northern Ireland Waste Management Strategy
    2006-2020 “Towards Resource Management” are effective methods of bringing
    about attitudinal, cultural and behavioural change. A key theme of the Strategy
    is waste prevention, while recycling and recovery are also identified as key
    factors in the transition towards better resource management. The Strategy
    recognises that behavioural change, through education on the actions required
    to safeguard the environment, is necessary to affect a cultural shift towards
    better resource management.
36. There has been a 13% reduction in single use plastic bags in 2010 18 and
    increases in household recycling and composting for January to March 2011 19
    suggest that the Strategy has been effective.
37. The origins of litter entering the marine environment are diverse and although
    public litter appears to be the most common, wind-borne litter from coastal
    landfill sites, illegal dumping, and waste transfer sites also represent important
    litter sources. Consequently, although reducing levels of marine litter is not an
    objective of the Northern Ireland Waste Management Strategy actions to
    prevent waste, promote recycling and the composting of household waste and
    effective waste planning could help reduce the levels of litter entering the
    marine environment.

16                                                      th
   Articles on both BBC and UTV teatime news programmes 29 August 2011
   DOE press release 28 July 2011
   DOE press release 21 July 2011

38. The Strategy is currently being reassessed to take account of the requirements
    of the revised Waste Framework Directive (rWFD) and it is recommended that
    linkages between waste management and litter reduction are explored further.
39. The Litter (Northern Ireland) Order 1994 makes it an offence to litter in any
    place open to the air. This offence therefore applies to dropping litter on
    beaches. A person guilty of such an offence shall be liable on summary
    conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale. Alternatively
    the council may give the offender a notice offering the offender the opportunity
    of discharging any liability to conviction for that offence by payment of a fixed
    penalty of £50. The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (Northern
    Ireland) 2011 (amendments are planned to come into operation in April 2012)
    gives Councils a range of improved powers to enable them to deal with litter
    problems more effectively including the power to issue higher fines for littering.
    Also under the Litter (Northern Ireland) Order 1994 a duty is imposed on each
    district council (and on other relevant bodies where appropriate), “as respects
    its relevant land” to “ensure that the land is, so far as is practicable, kept clear of
    litter”. This duty does not apply to land “below the place to which the tide flows
    at mean high water springs”. However, the draft Code of Practice on Litter
    (currently out for consultation) recommends as good practice that duty bodies
    are aware of the impact of litter in the inter-tidal area, and where appropriate
    carry out cleansing.

40. The impacts of marine litter have been well documented as occurring globally
    although at a UK level there is incomplete evidence of either the full scale of the
    issue or the implications for ecosystems.
41. Northern Ireland data on the extent of marine litter is however more
    comprehensive than in other parts of the UK. We also have a smaller area of
    coastline than other administrations so a marine litter strategy could possibly be
    developed and implemented more effectively here.
42. Data gathered in Northern Ireland indicates that in spite of mitigation measures
    in place levels of marine litter are unacceptably high. The risks to public health
    and the environment, the socio-economic costs of marine litter combined with
    European commitments are compelling arguments for the introduction of a
    marine litter strategy for Northern Ireland.
43. It is therefore recommended that work on drafting a marine litter strategy should
    progress. This will include further discussions with key stakeholders to gather
    views on possible cost effective measures to tackle the problem of marine litter
44. An outline analysis of potential measures to reduce litter levels both in terms of
    litter entering the environment and in removing existing litter is presented in
    Appendix 1 for discussion purposes.

Appendix 1
Existing and potential measures to reduce levels litter entering the marine environment
Category        Potential measures to prevent litter entering the            Type of measure        Delivery           Potential measures
                marine environment                                                                  partners           to remove litter
                                                                                                                       from marine
Public Litter   Increasing public awareness of the costs of litter           Attitudinal/cultural   EPD, Tidy NI,      Councils and
                and changing attitudes to littering as a result of the       change                 NIEA               voluntary bodies
                Northern Ireland Waste Management Strategy.                                                            removing litter from
                Increasing imposition of fines and levels of fines for       Punitive/legislative   Councils           More litter removal
                depositing litter.                                                                                     undertaken by
                                                                                                                       caravan parks,
                                                                                                                       private landowners,
                                                                                                                       users of the marine
                More frequent litter collections from beach areas.           Process                Councils           Revised statutory
                                                                                                                       Code of Practice on
                Reduction in the use of plastic bags as a result of          Economic incentive Retailers
                the proposed levy on single use plastic bags.
                Reduction in the use of plastic as a packaging               Economic               Industry bodies

Fishing         Changing attitudes among fishing communities to              Attitudinal/cultural   DARD, NIFHA,       Fishing for Litter.
gear            littering and increasing awareness of the cost to the        change                 ANIFPO, NIFPO,
                fishing industry of marine litter through initiatives                               sectoral bodies,

Category      Potential measures to prevent litter entering the         Type of measure        Delivery            Potential measures
              marine environment                                                               partners            to remove litter
                                                                                                                   from marine
              like fishing for litter.                                                         TidyNI.
Sewage        Increasing public awareness of appropriate disposal Attitudinal/cultural         NI Water, TidyNI,   Councils and
Related       of sanitary items through initiatives like the NI Water change                   EPD, NIEA,          voluntary bodies
Debris.       “bag it and bin it”.                                                                                 removing litter from
Fly tipped.   Increasing prosecution.                                   Punitive/legislative   NIEA-
                                                                                               Crime Unit.
Non-          Increasing public awareness of the costs of litter        Attitudinal/cultural   EPD, Tidy NI,       Councils and
sourced*      and changing attitudes to littering as a result of the    change                 NIEA                voluntary bodies
              Northern Ireland Waste Management Strategy.                                                          removing litter from


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