It probably may not surprise many of us, but nine coastal areas bordering the Mediterranean appear to have contributed significantly in terms of the scourge of plastic pollution.
Unsurprisingly, the locations identified are the major tourism drawcards, and include European regions of great prosperity. While the Mediterranean Sea represents less than 1% of the global ocean surface area, it remains vital in economic and ecological terms as it serves many EU member countries.
Who is creating the Plastic Pollution Problem?
Nine coastlines seem to be the main contributors to the Mediterranean plastic pollution problem, authoritative sources claim – page down to view the culprits. High among them are opposite-end-of-the-Med tourist spots of Tel-Aviv and Barcelona. Marseilles and the coast around Venice are facing the music too.
What adds to the ‘bad news factor’ is the reality that Turkey and Egypt lead from the front in terms of plastic pollution. This is significant because these two countries control major flows in and out of the Mediterranean between them.
Turkey serves as the ‘gate keeper’ to the Bosporus, a natural strait forming the continental boundary between Europe and Asia. Egypt presides over the Nile Delta, as well as the Suez Canal that links the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. Both the Suez Canal and Bosporus Strait carry high shipping volumes that provide vital commercial traffic, representing significant global trade.
Nett Consumer Problems
High levels of plastic consumption by tourists simply add to the plastic pollution already created by residents. The wild card is the problem left from poor waste collection and management systems, serious issues in several Mediterranean countries.
For example, statistics confirm that Italy consumes the most bottled water in the world. This amounts to an annual average of just under 200 litres of plastic bottled water per Italian. No prizes for guessing where most of the plastic discards end up…
Urgent Solutions to Pollution Issues Required
All Mediterranean governments – including non-EU nations – should set targets to reuse and recycle 100% of plastic items, thereby creating zero waste. In addition, scientists are demanding the rapid phasing out of single-use plastic items.
World Wildlife Fund for Nature is an international non-governmental organization, founded in 1961. The WWF maintains that marine pollution costs tourism, fisheries and maritime sectors around €650m every year, just in the Mediterranean Sea. Unless effective controls are in place, plastic pollution in the region is set to quadruple by the middle of the century.
Plastic pollution already poses serious threats to marine life and water quality. The WWF continues, “Plastic production is far too cheap while its waste management and pollution costs are largely discharged on societies and nature. All countries must overhaul their whole supply chain… This is the only way we can keep plastic out of the Mediterranean Sea.”
Monitoring Ocean Plastic Flows
The Mediterranean Sea contains between 5% and 20% of all marine species, which attracts tourism and provides fishing income for every country with coastlines facing the sea. According to the WWF, the coastline of Cilicia in southeast Turkey has the highest plastic pollution in the Mediterranean with just over 30kg of debris per kilometre. The other hotspots included on WWF list are:
# Barcelona – 26 kg/km
# Tel Aviv – 21 kg/km
# Po Delta – 18 kg/km
# Valencia – 13 kg/km
# Alexandria – 13 kg/km
# Algiers – 12 kg/km
# Bay of Marseille – 9.4 kg/km
# Izmir – 7 kg/km
Something Has to Give
The EU needs to drastically reduce plastic production and effectively increase recycling, this an imperative according to Giuseppe Di Carlo, director of WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative. He concludes with the following sobering statement: “Our plastic system is broken – all Mediterranean countries still fail to collect all their waste.”
The message is clear and urgent; the collective needs to do something about the problem, before it is too late. Whether any country listens or reacts is another matter.