Will you protect the sea? The sea starts with you

Plastic bags, bottles, cigarette butts ... the problem of litterin the sea is well known. Today, masks are also appearing, not only as litter in the streets, but also in the sea. They are transported by the wind and rivers. Here are some tips to prevent all this litter from ending up in the sea.

We all have a connection with the sea: she regulates our climate by absorbing CO₂, provides oxygen, fish, seafood, sand, salt, wind energy and much more. In addition, it is a place 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 shrimp to the seal and the porpoise.

Millions of tons of marine litter

Unfortunately, an average of 11 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 can end up in the sea through sewers, waterways, water purification plants, or simply by the wind. Even disposable masks and gloves often end up in the sea today. Plastics remain present for up to 450 years, and the small fragments or microplastics never truly disappear. This has negative consequences for marine mammals which mistake the litter for food or get entangled in it.

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...

Tips to protect the sea :

Less waste:

  • Avoid disposable or single-use plastic, reuse and recycle packaging. Plastic bags, packaging, straws, etc. are used only once but their presence lingers 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. This way you save a lot of plastic bottles and it's better for your wallet!
  • Always bring your drinking bottle, reusable coffee mug, lunch box or cloth lunch bag to work or school.
  • Go for/choose unpacked food; buy loose vegetables and fruitoo 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.
  • Swapyour shower gel for a piece of soap, try shampoo in bars and clean with sodium carbonate or vinegar. This way you avoid a lot of packaging waste.
  • Use washable cotton pads to wipe away make-up, washable pantyliners ...


At home:

  • Reduce water pollution by using ecological cleaning -, (dish)washing - ,care products and paints (e.g. with the EU Ecolabel. Only use disinfectants, pesticides and other chemicals such as bleach, descalers and unclogging agents 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 which also enter the food chain.
  • 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.
  • 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  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!
  • 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 and thus help to combat ocean acidification. Eat less meat and go for seasonal and local vegetables and fruit. Take your bike instead of your car for short distances. Choose green electricity. Properly insulate your house.



  • 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.
  • Make sure you don't lose your mask: don't let it fall out of your pocket or fly away. Your disposable mask belongs in your garbage bag.
  • Pick up some littereach time you walk or jog.
  • Are you a smoker? Put your cigarette butts 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 mistake pieces of balloons for food or get entangled in them. 
  • Become a member of an environmental organisation.


At sea:

  • Don't let the wind get the better of you with your mask and keep it by your side
  • Don't leave your garbage on the beach: throw it in the bin or take it with you.
  • Put your cigarette butts in a beach ashtray, which can be found at all tourist information centres.
  • Take part in a beach cleanup.
  • Save the vulnerable dunes: stay on the paths, don't take plants or animals home and don't make fires.
  • Spotted a seal? Don’t take a  selfie butenjoy the wild animal from a safe distance (at least 20 m). 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).
  • Sort your garbage in your holiday home in the same manner  you do at home.
  • Spread these tips to your friends, family and/or neighbors!



Learn more about:

Waste at sea:

The North Sea: