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European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency
News article27 July 2022European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency

Raising awareness of Italy’s marine litter problem 

The team behind Clean Sea LIFE reversed the accumulation of marine litter along Italian coasts by changing the attitudes and behaviour of citizens, tourist operators and authorities.

LIFE15 GIE/IT/000999
LIFE15 GIE/IT/000999. All rights reserved. Licensed to the European Union under conditions.

Tourism, fishing and recreational activities are among the primary sources of marine litter. This litter is a significant threat to marine ecosystems and represents a growing concern for the environment, the economy and human health.  

Clean Sea LIFE was a game-changing awareness-raising project that successfully reduced marine litter while inspiring many people to become actively involved in protecting the sea. 

The team involved 170 000 citizens and fishers who removed 112 tonnes of waste from the Mediterranean.  

More than 1 000 public meetings and lectures on the problem and how to deal with it were held in museums, clubs and associations, classrooms, beaches, and military vessels.  

Clean Sea LIFE’s ‘Fishing for litter’ campaign saw pilot projects being carried out in Porto Torres (Sardinia), Manfredonia (Puglia), Rimini (Emilia-Romagna) and San Benedetto del Tronto (Marche). It involved 118 vessels collecting 80 tons of marine litter caught in nets. 

Pope Francis subsequently invited the fishers to a private audience, praising their efforts.  

Project partners helped fine-tune Italy’s Salva Marelaw by providing evidence-based reports to policymakers. The legislation was approved in May 2022.  

Around 20 000 people signed the project’s ‘Pledge to the Sea’, committing to being more careful with waste production and sharing this new attitude with family and friends. 

A highly successful communications campaign reached around 34 million people on social media and national television.  

Some of the project’s activities have already been replicated, including Fishing for Litter. 

Clean Sea LIFE recently won this year’s LIFE Award for Environment, and the project also won the popular vote for its awareness-raising actions. 

Asked about winning the prizes, project coordinator Vittorio Gazale said:  

‘We are extremely proud to win both awards and would like to dedicate them to the thousands of people who participated in our activities. The clean-up operations are still happening today even though the project has finished. This shows that people have changed their behaviour to protect our planet.’ 

Clean Sea LIFE supports the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the recently published Nature Restoration Law