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No 177: Status on beach litter monitoring in Denmark 2015. Amounts and composition of marine litter on Danish reference beaches

Strand, J., Tairova, Z. & Metcalfe, R. d’A. 2016. Status on beach litter monitoring in Denmark 2015. Amounts and composition of marine litter on Danish reference beaches. Aarhus University, DCE – Danish Centre for Environment and Energy, 42 pp. Scientific Report from DCE – Danish Centre for Environment and Energy No. 177. http://dce2.au.dk/pub/SR177.pdf 


This report describes the first results from the national monitoring programme of marine litter, socalled “beach litter”, on selected reference beaches in Denmark. The monitoring programme has been initiated in 2015 by the Danish Nature Agency at the Ministry of Environment and Food. This monitoring activity is aiming to provide data that can be used for assessments of state, impact and trends of marine litter in the marine environment as described in EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

The national monitoring programme has in 2015 included four reference beaches, where two are located at the Baltic Sea and two are located at the North Sea and Skagerrak, where the practical surveys have been performed by DCE - Danish Centre for Environment and Energy at Aarhus University together with KIMO Denmark. In addition, data for a fifth reference beach located in Roskilde Fjord are included in this report as it has also been monitored by DCE parallel to the other reference beaches in 2015. All surveys have been performed systematically during three seasons (spring, summer and autumn) according to the national guideline developed for beach litter monitoring. The national guideline is based on the international guideline for monitoring of marine litter on beaches in the OSPAR maritime area, but the list of types of litter items to categorise has been expanded with relevant beach litter codes from the recent EU master list for marine litter items.

The monitoring data showed that in 2015 there were huge regional differences in amounts of marine litter washed ashore on the reference beaches. The highest levels with 2146-9137 litter items per 100 m were found on the Skagerrak beach at Skagen followed by 193-413 litter items at the North Sea beach Nymindegab and 31-204 litter items per 100 m on the beaches at the Baltic Sea and Roskilde Fjord. Similar tendency with the highest levels found in the Skagerrak region is also present when comparing the Danish data with monitoring data from the neighbouring countries Germany, Norway and Sweden. The amounts of litter items registered on the Danish beaches in 2015 seem to be a little higher for the North Sea and Baltic Sea beaches when compared to corresponding beaches in the neighbouring countries.

Litter items made of plastic materials were with 48-84 % of all registered litter items the dominating type of litter at all the reference beaches in 2015, but also marine litter made of rubber, metal, machined wood, glass/pottery, cloth and paper/cardboard were registered at all beaches.

Remains from fishery and public littering are assessed to be the dominating sources to marine litter followed by sanitary waste, operational waste and galley waste. The majority of registered litter items could not be assigned to specific sources. Comparisons of the monitoring data from reference beaches with reported data from clean-up activities on beaches in Denmark made by volunteers support that the monitored reference beaches reflect marine litter washed ashore from the sea. The clean-up data reflect litter that can be related to public littering from activities on or close to the beaches, and they also generally register fewer types of litter items per survey.

The Danish monitoring data on amounts of beach litter do not yet fulfil the requirements for performing temporal trend assessments according to OSPAR recommendations, even though KIMO Denmark has for several years monitored beach litter on a few North Sea beaches. A minor statistical analysis on the data reported by KIMO Denmark for the North Sea beach Nymindegab indicates a decline in the numbers of plastic drink containers, glass fragments from bottles and galley waste in the period 2011-2015.