Founded in 2000, MerTerre's main aim is to reduce the amount of litter that ends up in the sea.
To achieve this objective, it proposes to provide knowledge on the quantities, qualities and origins of waste in order to define reduction programs and appropriate means.


It was while writing her thesis (Les macrodéchets littoraux : une gestion publique empirique ? A study of the coastline of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region), that Isabelle Poitou realized that the answer to this complex environmental problem lay at the crossroads of the social sciences and the natural sciences.

Identifying the emergence of a major pollution problem to which France had yet to provide a concerted global response, Isabelle Poitou founded the MerTerre association in 2000. The association centralizes information on abandoned and dispersed solid waste, which ends up in aquatic environments in particular, and contributes to its reduction. MerTerre addresses legal, organizational, financial and psychosocial issues, as well as the need to create characterization tools. It thus brings a global, cross-disciplinary vision to this societal challenge.


Having completed her thesis, Isabelle Poitou has now turned her attention to implementing the means of reducing diffuse litter that she has identified and developed in the course of her research. Diffuse litter is proving to be a formidable educational tool, as it ultimately generates one of the few forms of pollution that is directly perceptible and whose geographical origin, socio-economic and behavioral sources can be traced.

Every link in their existence can be addressed, raising awareness at all levels and making complex concepts such as ecosystems, sustainable development and integrated management accessible.


MerTerre initiates the creation of the first Observatory of Waste in Aquatic Environments (ODEMA in French). It was the first step in the collaborative platform project, proposing standardized waste characterization methodologies for the collection of diffuse litter.

The aim is to acquire knowledge about the quantities, qualities and origins of waste in order to help define appropriate reduction programs.

2008 and following years

To implement the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) of June 17, 2008, the French government is starting to bring together the stakeholders involved (associations, scientists, government departments, public establishments, etc.) in working groups.

MerTerre is a member of French and European working groups (Grenelle de l'environnement, Grenelle de la mer, Atelier Déchets Marins, European expert group for the definition of descriptor 10 for the DCSMM), participating in the construction of French action plans, the evolution of legislation on diffuse abandoned waste, and gradually structuring the vision of a collaborative tool to support public policy.

That same year, the coordination of Calanques Propres was entrusted to MerTerre, a large-scale collection operation that gradually extended from the Côte Bleue to La Ciotat and inland (Huveaune and Aygalades), covering more than 40 areas. The idea is to pool resources and increase the event's impact by joining forces and raising public awareness. Participants will be asked to characterize the waste they collect, with the aim of acquiring knowledge useful for a shared diagnosis, and to pass this information on to the local authorities, communes concerned, the metropolis and the Parc national des Calanques.


As part of the implementation of the DCSMM, the French government has drawn up an action plan for the marine environment, broken down by coastline. It includes a marine litter monitoring program, i.e. the acquisition of knowledge following a protocol shared with European countries, as well as action sheets to achieve good ecological status of waters by 2020.

MerTerre is contributing to the definition of the initial status of the Mediterranean coastline and, thanks to its experience, is a reference for the implementation and structuring of the French monitoring network supported by Cedre on behalf of the French government (see DCSMM initial status).

L'équipe en action de ramassage


MerTerre is working on the French adaptation of the Adopt a Beach participatory science program, developed in the United States and Northern Europe. MerTerre proposes to develop the Adopt’1 Spot program in France, enabling the collection of standardized data from citizen pick-ups. It then sought the support of the French Ministry of Ecology to develop an IT tool to centralize the French data thus acquired. And this not only for the coastline, but also for inland watersheds, where most marine litter originates.

That same year, MerTerre took part in the organization of the first National Meeting of Wild Waste Collectors, initiated by Denis Blot, a sociologist at Picardy University, in partnership with Nature Libre at Wimille-Wimereux in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, with the idea of federating disparate initiatives.


MerTerre organized the 2nd national meeting of litter collectors in Marseille, and took this opportunity to gather the expectations and needs of this community of players, with the aim of strengthening their ability to act in their territories. The event brought together a wide range of players, and helped to clarify the idea of a collaborative web tool and its content to serve this same community.


Based on concrete needs identified by its regional partners, as well as on work carried out in previous years, MerTerre, with the support of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Region and the French Ministry of Ecological Transition (MTE), is proposing to design a pilot site in the Southern Region : ReMed Zero Plastic. Its functionalities, developed in partnership with the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH).

This platform is a collaborative tool for structuring and centralizing standardized data acquired by the network of players involved in reducing litter that can end up in the Mediterranean.


As MerTerre is based in Marseille and has been working for many years with local public, association and private players, it has built its ReMed Zero Plastic project on its local experience. ReMed Zéro Plastique went online in March, just before the Calanques Propres operation, in order to test this new tool with participants used to characterization.

The platform has been designed to be applied on a national scale, with a view to responding to the action plan for the marine environment defined by the French Ministry of Ecological Transition, which includes a program of measures to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the sea. 

The concrete experience acquired by MerTerre in Marseilles and the South of France has served as an inspiring basis for the development of a useful system for the whole of France.


The result of the experience of the ReMed Zéro Plastique platform, the national platform Zero Dechet Sauvage will be officially launched in June 2021. This platform is intended to be multidisciplinary, and proposes shared governance between the Steering Committee made up of MerTerre, Mosaic (a service unit of the National Museum of Natural History, French Ministry of Ecological Transition, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Region), the Technical Committee made up of the co-lead structures and the Scientific Committee made up of professionals specializing in the subject.


The deployment of the Zéro Déchet Sauvage (Zero Waste for Nature) platform is being carried out in several local areas thanks to collaborative work with co-pilot organizations. Thanks to the feedback it receives, the platform is constantly adapting to the needs of those involved in the field throughout France.

Pilot projects are being rolled out across France. In Brittany, Occitania, the South of France and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, diagnostics based on the analysis of these data are being carried out in conjunction with local authorities, public authorities and natural area managers.

Atelier collaboratif

2023 and beyond...

The platforms are designed to evolve in line with the needs of the structures that use them (introduction of a tool to identify preferential accumulation areas, creation of a space dedicated to helping managers and local authorities draw up action plans, etc.).

Meetings between the various stakeholder groups and the platform's partners will be scheduled to enable exchanges and sharing of experience, feedback on solutions implemented and specific challenges encountered. 

MerTerre plans to work with local authorities and pilot managers to implement action plans, and to support co-pilot partners in their territories.

We plan to draw up a guide document to capitalize on best practices with a view to replicability...

To follow our progress,
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