Delegates attending a conference organised by the Swedish government in Lisbon today left with a gift that most could probably have done without. They were handed bags of garbage collected from the Swedish coast in a bid by the government to highlight the growing problem of waste in the sea - much of it thrown overboard from ships. According to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, around 8,600 tonnes of rubbish lies on the bottom of the North Sea, ranging from hypodermic needles to chemical drums. More than 2,300 drums and 35,000 sacks of rubbish are collected each summer from the ecologically sensitive Bohuslän coast in western Sweden. Now, the government is launching an information campaign to prevent the garbage aimed at coastal communities and industries in neighbouring countries. One aim is to stop authorities from charging ships separately to deposit waste in harbours - in Sweden the cost has been amalgamated into general harbour fees. A partial solution to Sweden's problem may come from an international law due to be brought into force on 1 July which requires all ships weighing 400 tonnes or more and carrying more than 15 persons to keep records of their garbage disposal. Fixed and floating seabed exploration platforms will also be covered. The law comes under the 1973 International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships.
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