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Sources of Marine Litter

Because marine litter comes from sea-based and land-based sources, reduction and prevention measures must be implemented across a wide range geographic locations and societal sectors. Additionally, marine litter may originate from a variety of sources; from waste from landfills on land to galley waste from commercial shipping. However, the main sources can be grouped as follows:

The main sea/ocean-based sources of marine litter

  • Merchant shipping, ferries and cruise liners
  • Fishing vessels
  • Military fleets and research vessels
  • Pleasure craft
  • Offshore oil and gas platforms
  • Fish farming installations

The main land-based sources of marine litter

  • Municipal landfills (waste dumps) located on the coast or inland
  • Riverine transport of waste from landfills or other sources along rivers and other inland waterways (canals)
  • Discharge of untreated municipal sewage, including storm water (including occasional overflows)
  • Industrial facilities: Solid waste from landfills, and untreated waste water
  • Tourism (recreational visitors to the coast; beach-goers)