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Research project aims to reduce plastic in the Baltic Sea

Together with Danish, Swedish and Polish partners, the University of Rostock and the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research in Warnemünde (IOW) has launched a research project that aims to reduce the quantity of plastic waste that gets into the Baltic Sea via the rivers. For plastic waste from land-based sources, for example from industry or tourism, solutions are to be developed to minimise these discharges in cooperation with companies, research institutes and communities in the coastal region of the southern Baltic Sea.
On September 15, 2023, the project entitled "Circular Ocean-bound Plastic (COP)" was launched with a meeting of the project group in Danzig in Poland. The transnational initiative to combat plastic contamination in the southern part of the Baltic Sea will, according to the reports, be financed over a period of three years to the tune of nearly 2.02 million euros by Interreg South Baltic with money from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The project is being coordinated by Clean Denmark, the Danish Water & Environmental Cluster. Other players are the Ocean Plastic Forum, the Plast Center Denmark, the Swedish Sustainable Business Hub, the University of Gdansk, the Gdansk Water Foundation and the Gdansk Sports Center.


Around 80 % of the plastic in the Baltic Sea stems, according to figures from the European Environment Agency (EEA), from land-based sources, including urban and rural activities such as industry, tourism, picnics and events near to the river bank. The aim of the COP project is to remove plastic from the river system as close to its source as possible and to identify possibilities for the reuse and recycling of the litter. The University of Rostock and the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde want to first identify in the joint project with their partners the biggest sources of pollution in the Rostock urban region. The research activities include above all the development and testing of a monitoring system to record the pollution level of various river areas and to evaluate the most important types of litter, time-related trends and the ways in which the plastic waste gets into the rivers. A spatial analysis aims in addition to establish the most important sources of pollution. On this basis, solutions are to be developed to effectively collect the plastic waste in the river and to recover it. Based on these findings, avoidance strategies will also be drawn up, which can be used not only in the research region of Rostock, but also in the other participating cities, namely Aarhus in Denmark, Malmö in Sweden and Danzig in Poland. Solutions shall be directly applied at the sources of the entries. In addition, equipment will be used that removes the waste from the surface water of the rivers. The collected plastic waste will then be evaluated with regard to its mechanical and chemical recyclability. Finally, best-practice examples will be developed to effectively reduce discharges of plastic waste in Rostock and other cities along the Baltic Sea, and to collect any waste that reaches the waters.

  • (30.11.2023)
  • Uni Rostock press release (1.2.2024)
  • (8.2.2024)
  • Photo: © Clean Denmark

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