CONTRA – Transforming Beach Wrack into a Resource

CONTRA (“Conversion of Baltic Beach Wrack from a Nuisance to a Resource and Asset”) develops environmentally sound and economically efficient strategies for beach wrack management

CONTRA addresses beach wrack, which is one of the persistent effects of eutrophication and pollution of the Baltic Sea. Mainly consisting of sea grass and algae, beach wrack can cover Baltic Sea beaches for weeks after storms, rotting into a smelly soup and leaking nutrients back into the water. Traditional beach wrack management involves either pushing it back into the shallow water to become someone else’s problem further up the coast, or, in case of insufficient current, to carry it away from the beach, transporting it to a nearby place and leave it rotting away just “out of sight” of touristic hot spots. In both cases, the potential of nutrient reduction by sustainable use of the organic material is not fully employed. On the contrary, the rotting material itself releases the nutrients again which is repeatedly feeding primary productivity. Moreover, this kind of beach wrack management is not only costly and unsustainable but it is also widely unaccepted by the public, who see and smell the local effects of the rotting material. Moreover, it is often in direct conflict with measures of environmental protection.

To address this conflict and to balance opposing interests, the CONTRA project conducts a fair and comprehensive evaluation of all environmental, social and economic aspects of beach wrack management at six case study sites. This evaluation includes ecological impacts of beach wrack collection, industrial cycles of beach wrack processing and value chains of beach wrack based products (such as soil improvers, biochar, biocover and fertilizers) or services (for instance coastal protection, biogas production and water quality improvement).

The project establishes an international network for knowledge exchange, capacity building, awareness raising and promotion of low-treatment or no-treatment options for beach wrack. The consortium comprises of public authorities, businesses, academia and NGOs coming from six countries (Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Poland, Sweden, Russia).