Life DEBAG: targeting the ecological footprint of plastic bags in the marine environment

The Life DEBAg project acting to target the impacts of plastic bags in the sea.

The LIFE DEBAG project– Integrated information and awareness campaign for the reduction of plastic bags in the marine environment (LIFE14 GIE/GR/001127)-, implemented with the contribution of the European Union’s LIFE financial instrument, aims at reducing plastic bags in the marine environment.
Throughout the project duration, an extensive information campaign is being implemented, targeting the huge ecological footprint of plastic bags in the marine environment, a phenomenon for which, despite the alarming dimensions it has reached in the last decade, citizens’ awareness is still very deficient.

Although the dissemination and the results of the project are expected to have a positive impact at national level, the “pilot” of the implementation actions is the island of Syros in Greece.

The activities performance will be evaluated by the project implementation team, by monitoring and measuring litter in the island environment throughout the project duration.

In order to investigate and quantify: (i) the current state of plastic bag pollution at Syros Island’s beaches; and (ii) the impact of the LIFE DEBAG awareness raising campaign at Syros’ marine environment throughout the project duration, the development of a specified monitoring protocol was required. It had been taken into consideration that the protocol should be in accordance with the TGML/JRC guidance document on monitoring marine litter in European seas(1), so as to produce data comparable with other assessment projects within EU. The “Protocol for the monitoring of plastic bag litter on beaches” includes a survey plan and a litter types list derived from the harmonised protocol suggested by the TGML/JRC guidance document. However, since the main aim of LIFE DEBAG is the plastic bag load monitoring, some extra points were added in order to acquire more detailed data regarding plastic bags. These points include classification and abundance of different plastic bag types (i.e., super market bags, retail shop bags, garbage bags, etc.), condition of plastic bags aiming to estimate if they are recent or have spent a lot of time in the marine environment, location found on the beach and brands or labels on the bags in order to estimate their origination.

One of the key activities of LIFE DEBAG is to monitor the overall project impact on the target audience, through the employment of various methods (information campaigns, web surveys, interviews, small-scale questionnaires, etc.). Specifically, for the “monitoring of the socio-economic impact of the project actions on the local economy and population”, the “Choice Experiment Method” for the elicitation of citizens and stakeholders' preferences was selected. The method is based on the choice of an alternative set of management measures, aiming to protect the coastal environment of Syros island from plastic debris. The advantage of using the aforementioned method is actually the elicitation of citizens’ preferences along various attributes of the problem at hand. More specifically, the attributes examined were the following: recreational activities; aesthetic experience; biodiversity; fishery; ban on plastic bags; WTP among different suggested programmes. The use of these means will reveal the environmental preferences relevant to the problem of plastic bags and the project benefits arising from the elimination of the environmental problems induced by the excessive use and improper disposal of plastic bags.

Lead: University of Patras (Geology Department), Beneficiaries: TERRA NOVA Ltd, MEDITERRANEAN SOS Network, Ecological Recycling Society and The Institute of Sustainable Development and Human Resources.

(1)Galgani, F., Hanke, G., Werner, S., Oosterbaan, L., Nilsson, P., Fleet, D., Kinsey, S., Thompson R.C., Van Franeker, J., Vlachogianni, T., Scoullos, M., Mira Veiga, J., Palatinus, A., Matiddi, M., Maes, T., Korpinen, S., Budziak, A., Leslie, H., Gago, J., Liebezeit, G., 2013b. Guidance on Monitoring of Marine Litter in European Seas. MSFD Technical Subgroup on Marine Litter (TSG-ML).