Quantcast

Mediterranean at Risk of Becoming a ‘Sea of Plastic,’ WWF Warns

Oceans
WWF / BiancoTangerine

The Mediterranean Sea is turning into a dangerous plastic trap, with record levels of pollution from microplastics threatening marine species and human health, according to a new World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report released Friday.


Coinciding with World Oceans Day, the WWF report "Out of the Plastic Trap: Saving the Mediterranean From Plastic Pollution" raises the alarm on the dramatic effects that excessive plastic use, poor waste management and mass tourism are having on one of the most visited regions in the world.

Bringing together the most recent data and scientific evidence on plastic use in Europe and the many ways in which it impacts marine life, the report presents a detailed roadmap of the urgent actions institutions, businesses and citizens need to take to stop plastic waste from reaching the sea.

"The impacts of plastic pollution in the Mediterranean are also being felt across the world and are causing serious harm both to nature and human health. Worsening plastic pollution will threaten the Mediterranean's global reputation for tourism and seafood, undermining the local communities who depend on these sectors for their livelihoods. The plastics problem is also a symptom of the overall decline in the health of the Mediterranean and must serve as a rallying call for real action," said John Tanzer, leader of the WWF International oceans program.

Today, plastic represents 95 percent of the waste floating in the Mediterranean and lying on its beaches. Most of this plastic is released into the sea from Turkey and Spain, followed by Italy, Egypt and France, with tourists visiting the region increasing marine litter by 40 percent each summer.

Large plastic pieces injure, suffocate and often kill marine animals, including protected and endangered species, such as sea turtles and monk seals. But it is microplastics—smaller and more insidious fragments—that have reached record levels of concentration of 1.25 million fragments per km2 in the Mediterranean Sea, almost four times higher than in the "plastic island" found in the North Pacific Ocean. By entering the food chain, these fragments threaten an increasing number of animal species as well as people.

"In Europe, we produce an enormous amount of plastic waste, the majority of which is sent to landfills, resulting in millions of tonnes of plastic entering the Mediterranean Sea each year. This contaminating flow, combined with the Mediterranean being semi-enclosed, has seen harmful microplastics reach record concentration levels, threatening both marine species and human health," said Giuseppe Di Carlo, director of WWF's Mediterranean marine initiative.

"We cannot let the Mediterranean drown in plastic. We need to act urgently and across the whole supply chain to save our ocean from the pervasive presence of plastics."

According to the report, delays and gaps in plastic waste management in most Mediterranean countries are among the root causes of plastic pollution. Out of the 27 million tonnes of plastic waste produced each year in Europe (Europe here refers to EU-28, Norway and Switzerland), only a third is recycled; half of all plastic waste in Italy, France and Spain ends up in landfills. Recycled plastics currently account for only 6 percent of plastics demand in Europe.

WWF is urging governments, businesses and individuals to adopt a number of actions to reduce plastic pollution in urban, coastal and marine environments in the Mediterranean and globally. These include:

  • The adoption of a legally-binding international agreement to eliminate plastic discharge into the oceans, supported by strong national targets to achieve 100 percent plastic waste recycled and reusable by 2030 and national bans for single-use plastic items such as bags.
  • A call to businesses to invest in innovation and design toward more effective and sustainable plastic use.
"Plastic pollution is too pervasive to be solved by one continent, one government or one industrial sector alone, and it affects us all. It is only by acting together that we can free our oceans, rivers, cities and lives from unnecessary plastic," concluded Di Carlo.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Scanning electron micrograph of Yersinia pestis, which causes bubonic plague, on proventricular spines of a Xenopsylla cheopis flea. NIAID / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A middle-aged married couple in China was diagnosed with pneumonic plague, a highly infectious disease similar to bubonic plague, which ravaged Europe in the middle ages, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Milk made from almonds, oats and coconut are among the healthiest alternatives to cow's milk. triocean / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Dairy aisles have exploded with milk and milk alternative options over the past few years, and choosing the healthiest milk isn't just about the fat content.

Whether you're looking beyond cow's milk for health reasons or dietary preferences or simply want to experiment with different options, you may wonder which type of milk is healthiest for you.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Greta Thunberg stands aboard the catamaran La Vagabonde as she sets sail to Europe in Hampton, Virginia, on Nov. 13. NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP via Getty Images

Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist whose weekly school strikes have spurred global demonstrations, has cut short her tour of the Americas and set sail for Europe to attend COP25 in Madrid next month, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
The Lake Delhi Dam in Iowa failed in 2010. VCU Capital News Service / Josh deBerge / FEMA

At least 1,688 dams across the U.S. are in such a hazardous condition that, if they fail, could force life-threatening floods on nearby homes, businesses, infrastructure or entire communities, according to an in-depth analysis of public records conducted by the the Associated Press.

Read More Show Less

By Sabrina Kessler

Far-reaching allegations about how a climate-sinning American multinational could shamelessly lie to the public about its wrongdoing mobilized a small group of New York students on a cold November morning. They stood in front of New York's Supreme Court last week to follow the unprecedented lawsuit against ExxonMobil.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

By Alex Robinson

Leah Garcés used to hate poultry farmers.

The animal rights activist, who opposes factory farming, had an adversarial relationship with chicken farmers until around five years ago, when she sat down to listen to one. She met a poultry farmer called Craig Watts in rural North Carolina and learned that the problems stemming from factory farming extended beyond animal cruelty.

Read More Show Less
People navigate snow-covered sidewalks in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on Nov. 11 in Chicago. Scott Olson / Getty Images

Temperatures plunged rapidly across the U.S. this week and around 70 percent of the population is expected to experience temperatures around freezing Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
A general view of the flooded St. Mark's Square after an exceptional overnight "Alta Acqua" high tide water level, on Nov. 13 in Venice. MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP / Getty Images

Two people have died as Venice has been inundated by the worst flooding it has seen in more than 50 years, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less