We all have a connection with the sea: it regulates our climate by absorbing CO2, provides oxygen, fish, seafood, sand, salt, wind energy and much more. Many of us even have a personal bond with the sea, which is a true source of peace and relaxation. The North Sea contains a surprising amount of life: more than 2,000 animals and plants, from algae, the sea anemone, the seahorse and the sole to the seal and the porpoise.

Unfortunately, an average of 8 million tons of plastic waste ends up in the sea every year; in other words one full truck of waste every minute. This waste comes from activities both at sea and on land.  Litter, such as plastic bottles, bags or cigarette ends, can end up in the sea through sewers, rivers, water purification plants, or simply by the wind. Even mouth masks and gloves often end up in the sea today. Plastics remain present for up to 450 years, and the small fragments never truly disappear completely.

The North Sea and its inhabitants deserve our protection! And you can help from anywhere: the sea starts with you, at home, in your kitchen and bathroom, in every drain...

Do you protect the sea? The sea starts with you!

Less waste:

  • Avoid disposable plastic, reuse and recycle packaging. Plastic bags, packaging, straws, etc. are used only once but stay behind in the environment for a very long time. 
  • Shop with a reusable shopping bag: always put one in your car or bicycle bag.
  • Go for tap water.
  • Always bring your drinking bottle, reusable coffee mug, lunch box or cloth lunch bag.
  • Prefer unpacked food; buy your vegetables and fruit loose or bring a reusable fruit and vegetable bag.
  • Take your own reusable (fabric) bread bag to the bakery. In some shops you can also bring your own containers. There are also packaging-free shops.
  • Exchange your shower gel for a piece of soap, try shampoo in block and clean with sodium carbonate or vinegar.
  • Use washable cotton pads to wipe away make-up, washable pantyliners ...

Being sustainable at home:

  • Choose toothpaste, scrubs, cosmetics and other care products without microplastics; tiny particles of plastic that eventually end up in the sea. A list can be found at www.beatthemicrobead.org
  • Reduce water pollution by using ecological cleaning, (dish)washing and care products and paints (e.g. with the EU Ecolabel). Only use disinfectants, pesticides and other chemicals such as bleach, descalers and drain cleaners if necessary, and use them safely and correctly.
  • Consider how often you wash your clothes. Many clothing consists of synthetic fibers. This releases microplastics with every wash.
  • Never throw wet wipes, cotton swabs, sanitary towels, etc. into the toilet.
  • Do not pour frying oil, paint residues or white spirit into the toilet or sink, but take them to the the small hazardous waste-section at the container park.
  • If possible, opt to buy natural materials over plastics in your purchases. For example, go for a bamboo toothbrush or hairbrush.
  • Sustainable gifts? Go for wooden or second-hand toys, a homemade gift or give an activity or experience as a gift. And reuse wrapping paper!

In nature:

  • Don't leave your waste anywhere; throw it in the bin or take it with you (keep a little bag in your car, bicycle bag or handbag for this purpose) and sort it at home.
  • Pick up some waste each time you walk or jog.
  • Are you a smoker? Put your cigarette ends into a pocket ashtray.
  • Make sure that balloons don't end up in nature or in the sea: don't let them fly. Birds, fish and other animals will see pieces of balloons as food or get entangled in them.

By the sea:

  • Sort your garbage in your holiday home as you do at home.
  • Don't leave your garbage on the beach: throw it in the bin or take it with you.
  • Take part in a beach cleanup.
  • Save the vulnerable dunes: stay on the paths, don't take plants or animals home and don't light fires.
  • Put your cigarette ends in a beach ashtray, which can be found at all tourist information centres.
  • Spotted a seal? Drop the selfie and enjoy a safe distance (at least 20 m) from this wild animal. Keep dogs on a leash.
  • Do not disturb birds during the breeding season.
  • Choose a sustainable holiday home (with the EU Ecolabel or the Green Key).

Don't forget:

  • Go for sustainable fish with the MSC/ASC label (or other sustainability score): avoid endangered species and try a lesser-known fish (see the fish guide at fr.fishguide.be  or the fish and seafood guide at www.guidedesespeces.org).
  • Reduce your carbon footprint! Eat less meat. Take your bike more often. Choose green electricity. Properly insulate your house.
  • Eat seasonal and local vegetables and fruit.
  • Become a member of an environmental organisation.
  • Spread these tips to your friends, family and/or neighbours!

More info and brochures about the North Sea

More info about the Action Plan on Marine Litter