top of page
  • Writer's pictureMarie-Louise Johansson

Västkuststiftelsen: Protecting Sweden’s western coast from marine plastic pollution

The issue of plastic waste in our oceans is a pressing concern, causing harm to marine life as well as coastal communities.


The primary sources of this pollution are from land-based activities, ranging from littering to illegal dumping and insufficient waste management systems. In many places, plastic waste ends up in rivers and other waterways, eventually reaching the ocean.

Initiatives like Project STOP are aiming to eliminate ocean litter at its source. Through their work with the government, cities, and local communities in Indonesia, they are bringing about behavioral and institutional change to create sustainable waste systems with no environmental leakage. In industry, Operation Clean Sweep®, of which Borealis was one of the earliest European signatories, calls on global plastics producers to ensure proper containment of the materials we use through targeting zero pellet loss.


Preserving Sweden’s western coastline

Alongside these efforts, it’s important that we clean up the waste that’s already there. The challenge is a global one: transported around the world on ocean currents, waste can drift many thousands of miles before being washed ashore.

The west coast of Sweden, stretching from Kungsbacka in the south to Strömstad near the Norwegian border, sees a significant amount of marine litter washing ashore annually. As much as 90% of this waste is plastic, including cigarette butts, along with other items such as glass, metal, rubber and rope [1].

Coastlines strewn with waste are not only unsightly, but also pose significant harm to marine birds and animals as well as threatening industries like fishing and tourism.

For many years, we’ve worked with an organization called Västkuststiftelsen – literally translated as ‘West Coast Foundation’ – who are tackling the problem head on. Their aim is to create a cleaner coast, safeguarding the natural environment, and preserving valuable beach and hiking areas for future generations.

Since 2018, with support from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, they’ve brought together twelve coastal municipalities, contractors, non-profit organizations, and independent volunteers to conduct beach cleanups. Using an app to pinpoints the areas that are most in need, they co-ordinate the collection of approximately 200 metrics tons of marine litter every year.²


Image 1: The bags used to collect the litter bear the text “Var sak har sin plast. Men inte på stranden.” – all plastics have their place, but not on the beach.

Image 2: This year, for the first time, the bag provided by Rani Plast and Borealis were partially made from machanically recycled materials.

Image 3: Handling this litter, which is often both sharp and heavy, requires a large volume of sturdy, reinforced bags.


Handling this litter, which is often both sharp and heavy, requires a large volume of sturdy, reinforced bags. Since 2016, these bags have been provided by Rani Plast and Borealis. A common sight along the shoreline, they bear the text “Var sak har sin plast. Men inte på stranden.” – all plastics have their place, but not on the beach – serving as a continual reminder that plastic is a valuable material that should never become litter. This year, for the first time, the bags were partially made from mechanically recycled materials, demonstrating the potential for plastic to be used over and again in new applications.


Fostering a deeper connection with the sea

Alongside cleaning up Sweden’s beaches, Västkuststiftelsen aims to raise awareness of the criticality of the current situation. Every August, they participate in Västerhavsveckan (West Sea Week), a public event organized by Västra Götalandsregionen (Region Västra Götaland) that aims to foster a deeper connection between local people and the sea. During the week, Västkuststiftelsen hosts a floating classroom on a wooden schooner named Kvartsita, which sails from Gothenberg to Tanum, anchoring at various points along the coastline. Onboard, scientists and marine experts conduct activities and lectures for all ages, highlighting the many ways that humans affect – and can protect – our oceans.

Image 1: Marine litter washing ashore before Västkuststiftelsen's cleanup.

Image 2: After Västkuststiftelsen's community cleanup. Västkuststiftelsen co-ordinate the collection of approximately 200 metrics tons of waste every year.


Through creating engagement, they hope to rally even more of the community to join the clean-up effort, as well as create pressure for more ambitious global solutions to tackle the problem. In 2022, over 8,000 people used their beach cleaning app – in the face of a seemingly unrelenting problem, the tireless energy of the community provides hope that we can turn the tide on plastic waste in our oceans once and for all.


¹ Vastkuststiftelsen, https://vastkuststiftelsen.se/..., Accessed: 17 August 2023

² Vastkuststiftelsen, https://vastkuststiftelsen.se/..., Accessed: 17 August 2023

12 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page