Excessive plastic use, poor waste management and mass tourism are greatly affecting the Mediterranean. Summer tourists alone cause a 40% increase in marine litter.
Large plastic pieces injure, suffocate and often kill marine animals, including protected and endangered species, like sea turtles and monk seals. Today, half of all sea turtles have ingested plastics and 90% of seabirds have plastic in their stomachs.
However, it is microplastics that cause the most damage. Microplastics have reached record levels with a concentration of 1.25 million fragments per km2 in the Mediterranean Sea, almost four times higher than that of the plastic island in the North Pacific Ocean. These fragments threaten an increasing number of animal species as well as people.
In our series about plastics, we examined the fact that more than 9 billion tons of plastic have been produced since the 1950s, with 7 billion tons ending as waste, in the form of microplastics. They originate mostly from packages and drink bottles and break up into tiny pieces in the environment. According to estimations, if this continues the world will end up with 13 billion tons of microplastics by 2050.
Europe produces an enormous amount of plastic waste, the majority of which is sent to landfills, causing millions of tonnes of plastic entering the Mediterranean Sea each year. Out of the 27 million tonnes of plastic in Europe, only a third is recycled, while recycled plastics account for only 6% of plastics demand in Europe.
To solve this huge problem, WWF suggests the following in its report:
- Choose products made of biodegradable or recycled materials instead of plastics biodegradable dental floss rather than nylon; wooden hair combs or clothes pegs; glass bottles; cotton napkins; etc.
- Avoid disposable products like plastic straws, shopping bags, water bottles, crockery and cutlery.
- Store food without plastic containers: prefer glass containers, an inert material that, unlike plastic, does not release any contaminants.
- Avoid soaps and cosmetic products that contain microplastics: if they contain polyethylene, polypropylene or polyvinyl chloride – these are all plastics.
- Buy unpackaged products: buy fruit, vegetables, cheese, meat, fish sold loose/by weight, and “on tap” detergents in order to minimize the packaging.
- Follow the waste and recycling procedures in your city or community.
- Engage with your shops and supermarkets and your municipality to urgently reduce unnecessary plastics.
- Be a responsible citizen and tourist.
See further details in the PDF below