Toolkit: Marine litter retention, Implementing your project, Litter collection

See also: Litter reception | Recycling and disposal | Project communication | Raising awareness on marine litter | Monitoring marine litter | Complementary activities

Other than the bags that are used to store and transport marine litter, no specific equipment is needed for litter collection. The lead organisation should ensure fishermen are provided with containers. In most marine litter retention projects, the lead organisation provides the bags directly to the fishermen. If fishermen or port authorities already have already bags that they are willing to use, it is important to check if they are solid enough to carry the litter. If bags are not solid enough they will be damaged more easily, which will create logistical issues and will slow down litter collection. 

Big bag

Marine litter collection on board, using a big bag (Bord Iascaigh Mhara)

The bags do not have to be specifically designed or manufactured for the project. Most marine litter projects use flexible intermediate bulk containers, commonly referred to as big bags, which are provided to fishermen by the lead organisation. These big bags can be purchased from a number of suppliers, including, for example, hardware stores and online suppliers. If your project involves vessels of different sizes, you might offer fishermen several sizes of bags – smaller vessels may need smaller bags to ensure fishermen have enough free space on board during fishing trips. Typical big bags used for marine litter retention projects measure L90 x W90 x H90 cm and have a weight capacity of 200 kilogrammes, and a volume of 100 litres. The bags are usually made of polypropylene, for greater strength, and can be reused several times. You can have the logo of the project, and of project sponsors, printed on the big bags. This can promote your project, help to ensure bags are returned for reuse and also facilitate monitoring of marine litter as the bags will be easily recognisable. 

In one project, big bags of 100x100x100cm were provided to trawlers, bags of 45x45x60cm were distributed to smaller vessels and bags of 32x29x43cm to small-scale fishing vessels. In other marine litter projects, fishermen have used plastic or metal containers. This approach is more adapted to larger vessels.

You should ensure that fishermen have regular and easy access to the big bags. Integrating the distribution of bags into to the fishing vessel’s existing activities in port will make it easier for fishermen to participate. You should discuss this with your contacts in the fishing association to identify the best time to distribute bags. The frequency of distribution will depend on the type and size of vessels and how much litter they typically collect in each haul. Larger vessels, which do longer trips, are likely to need more bags than small-scale fishing vessels.

The removal of marine litter does not require specific skills or experience, and does not require a change in crew size. However, some extra time will be required to remove the litter from the nets, to deposit it in the big bags and to put the big bags on the quays.