The Mediterranean is turning into a dangerous plastic trap, with record levels of pollution from microplastics – tiny pieces of plastic less than five millimetres in size which can be found increasingly in the food chain – threatening marine species and human health. could become a “sea of plastic,” the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) warned on Friday in a report calling for measures to clean up one of the world’s worst affected bodies of water.
“The concentration of micro-plastics is nearly four times higher” in the Mediterranean compared with open seas elsewhere in the world, said the report, “Out of the Plastic Trap: Saving the Mediterranean from Plastic Pollution.”
The research from the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) found that 95 per cent of the waste that ends up in the sea and its beaches is plastic. In the Mediterranean, plastic waste comes mainly from Turkey and Spain, followed by Italy, Egypt and France.
Greece consumes about 0,6 million tonnes of plastics per year and recycles 20% of this.
A clean-up survey in 80 beaches in Greece showed that the most abundant litter material was plastic (43–51%), followed by paper (13– 18%) and aluminium (7–12%). Top items found in Greek beaches are cigarette butts, bottle caps, straws and stirrers, plastic bottles,
food wrappers and plastic bags. Plastic waste management and recycling are included in the National Solid Waste Strategy and the National Strategic Solid Waste Prevention programme. Greece has a target of 65% plastic packaging recycling by 2020, but it is far from reaching it.
The current solid waste management system is inefficient and non-transparent, and lacks ambition on plastics waste prevention and reuse.
Friday’s report also states that mass tourism, excessive plastic use and poor waste management are areas that contribute to plastic pollution where action needs to be taken.
European countries produce approximately 27 million tons of plastic waste annually, but only one-third of this is recycled.
To tackle the problem, all countries around the Mediterranean should boost recycling, ban single-use plastics such as bags and bottles, and phase out the use of micro-plastics in detergents or cosmetics by 2025.
The plastics industry itself should develop more recyclable and compostable products made out of renewable raw materials instead of oil based plastics.
Individuals also have their role to play, making personal choices such as to use combs or kitchen utensils made of wood, not plastic, the WWF said.