The Mediterranean Coastal Waste Problem
The Mediterranean is a hotbed of plastic pollution. The plastic and commercial waste problem has reached such proportions that one ton of plastic will soon be found in the ocean for every three tons of fish. The problem could worsen with more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050. In light of this, WWF urges travellers to be environmentally conscious and to avoid single-use plastics as much as possible. While tourists compound the problem, gaps in plastic waste management in Mediterranean countries are also to blame. It is your responsibility to dispose of your company’s commercial waste responsibly so that it does not end up in the sea.
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|NATIONAL POLICY RESPONSES TO PLASTICS: GOOD PRACTICES AND KEY GAPS
|Producers are not accountable for the actual cost of plastic
|High plastic waste generation, driven by single-use items
|Limited collection capacity in some countries
|Limited treatment facilities lead to open dumping or use of unsanitary landfills.
Low profitability in the recycling sector and secondary market
|No incentives for upstream innovation
|Seasonal waste increases due to tourism
|Low rates of separate collection for plastic waste.
|Low recycling capacity
Limited supply of quality plastic waste as inputs.
Mediterranean Coastal Waste: Plastic Pollution
New studies from the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research in Greece have revealed the Mediterranean Sea’s massive plastic debris. How much of this is commercial waste? You would be surprised! Over four years, researchers have documented a total plastic load of 17,600 tons. Of this amount, 84 per cent ends up on shore, while the rest floats in the water column and settles to the seafloor. Despite the high plastic load, researchers are still uncertain of the exact causes of the pollution.
Previous studies of the plastic debris in the surface waters of the Mediterranean Sea have revealed concentrations of several tens to hundreds of thousands of items per square kilometre. These results suggest a widespread presence of buoyant plastic debris in the Mediterranean Sea. The present study combines a large-scale survey of coastal regions with extensive marine water sampling to assess plastic pollution in the Mediterranean.
It also compares the results of the Mediterranean with those of five regions where plastic debris accumulates in open waters. Microplastics are primarily found in wastewater treatment plants, while large microplastics are prevalent in coastal regions with high riverine input. Large plastics are found on the Turkish, Algerian, and Albanian coasts. Plastic pollution in the Mediterranean Sea is particularly acute in coastal areas with significant amounts of untreated wastewater.
And it may also affect humans, as microplastics are often ingested through seafood.
However, until further studies are conducted, it is impossible to accurately assess plastic pollution in the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the widespread impact of microplastic pollution on marine life, the Mediterranean Sea is still one of the most vulnerable seas in the world. Nearly 80% of the Mediterranean Sea’s microplastic pollution comes from land sources, including commercial waste. Therefore, countries surrounding the Mediterranean basin should frame legislative policies to limit the distribution and eliminate plastic pollution.
And since the Mediterranean Sea is semi-enclosed, the concentration of microplastics in the sea is four times higher than in the North Pacific Ocean. Moreover, each step in the lifecycle of plastics offers opportunities to reduce its negative impact on the environment. For example, cutting plastic consumption is a prerequisite to reducing the number of plastics entering the Mediterranean.
At the same time, the Mediterranean can become a zero-waste region by adopting a zero-waste model that includes effective recycling and reuse. And by implementing these policies, the Mediterranean will see a major decrease in the amount of plastic waste it generates.
Mediterranean Coastal Waste: Lack of Adequate Legal Measures
Coastal waste is an issue of great concern throughout the Mediterranean. Many surveys suggest that this problem is compounded by smoking-related waste. The problem also extends to the fishing industry and shipping. The most common months for waste collection are November and December. This lack of legal measures has made the problem even more serious. Moreover, there are no clear laws that address the issue of marine litter. Various initiatives have been taken to address the problem.
- Most Mediterranean countries have adopted policies to manage coastal solid waste, but enforcement is lacking.
- This is partly due to poor coordination between national and local administrations.
- Local administrations are ultimately responsible for managing coastal litter in their jurisdictions, while the role of the Ministry of Environment is mainly limited to monitoring and controlling this issue.
- Without adequate legal measures, tackling the problem of coastal litter in the Mediterranean is impossible.
- There are also several international initiatives aimed at solving the problem. These initiatives include implementing policies and treaties that hold nations and companies responsible for marine litter.
However, many regional seas are not a part of the UNEP Global Initiative and may lack waste-management schemes. There are, however, some African countries that have banned plastic bags. But these are still insufficient to tackle the problem effectively.
However, some international agreements have limited enforcement. For example, the Mediterranean Pollution Assessment and Control Programme aim to help parties comply with their obligations under the Dumping Protocol. It also includes guidelines on assessing wastes and other materials considered for disposal at sea. However, these guidelines are ineffective for most Mediterranean, where smaller fishing harbours face even greater challenges.
However, improvements are evident in the availability of reception facilities. The lack of marine litter legislation enforcement is a major hurdle to achieving clean waters. Many countries have yet to fully implement international initiatives to combat the problem, resulting in a lack of clear regulations and enforcement of these laws. Further, insufficient penalties and a lack of clarity in the legislation may lead to ineffective enforcement and interpretation of these laws. And as the UNEP points out, these regulations are not enough to tackle the problem.
Mediterranean Coastal Waste: Impact on Marine Life
The Mediterranean has a high pollution level due to plastics and commercial waste. There are several causes of this pollution:
- Oil spills and pollution from plastics.
- Human activities cause increased amounts of nutrients in the water.
- Oxygen-depleting substances.
These factors are mainly preventable with measures such as coastal guard monitoring and wastewater treatment plants. However, to protect the marine environment, a reduction in plastic consumption and a sustainable plastic cycle must be implemented in all Member States of the European Union. The study is an essential contribution to our understanding of the Mediterranean ecosystem.
It reviews the pressures and trends of the region’s coastal ecosystems, updates the list of Chemicals of Potential Concern in the Mediterranean, and contributes to existing legislation. It also analyses the new impacts of climate change, the growing blue economy, and geoengineering on the ecosystem. It also scales monitoring actions to regional levels and collects spatial information on cumulative impacts.
In addition to affecting marine life, the Mediterranean Sea is one of the world’s most polluted oceans. Hundreds of tons of plastic debris and commercial waste are dumped into the Mediterranean every year. Some of these plastics are so large that they may soon overtake fish stocks. Still, more research is needed to determine the full impact of these substances on marine life. These are just a few of the many sources of Mediterranean coastal waste.
In addition to these three issues, the study also highlights the need for greater societal engagement. This can be achieved through citizen-science initiatives, promoting a better understanding of the issues and solutions. And promoting ocean literacy can foster a shared sense of marine citizenship in the Mediterranean region. That is an essential step in protecting the Mediterranean Sea. There is a strong need to incorporate marine citizenship in the Mediterranean region.
Mediterranean Coastal Waste: Impact on Tourism
The booming tourism industry in the Mediterranean dramatically impacts the area’s natural resources, especially the water. This region is home to over 200 million tourists annually, and the waste that comes with them is plastic. Over forty per cent of this waste is plastic. Many marine animals, including fish, mistake plastic debris for prey and ingest it. This is costly to marine ecosystems and detrimental to the tourism industry. The study was conducted to determine how the issue of coastal waste could be tackled in the Mediterranean.
Several coastal cities, including Sicily, Malta, Crete, Rhodes and Cyprus, and Mallorca, carried out a series of pilot actions.
The pilot actions included:
- Social media and radio campaigns.
- Awareness-raising efforts.
- New trash bins or signage on existing bins.
This research will likely influence policy development for the region’s tourism sector. Researchers found that over 80% of the marine debris on Mediterranean islands results from tourism. During the summer months, tourism creates massive waste and microplastics on the shores. In addition to plastic waste, the tourism industry is also responsible for much of this waste.
In some Mediterranean regions, the tourism industry contributes to up to forty million plastic waste items per day, far higher than the average during the low season. The current tourism model is contributing to this problem. The current situation in the Mediterranean region is not entirely unfavourable. Even though most of the coastline is protected, only a tiny percentage of the Mediterranean sea is in pristine condition.
Tourism in these areas often results in many people visiting the beach, adversely impacting local communities and tourism. Therefore, the Mediterranean coastal waste problem is an issue that requires urgent attention. Therefore, the Mediterranean region must proactively tackle the problem to improve its overall quality of life. The Interreg MED BLUE ISLANDS project focused on reducing seasonal variations in waste generated by tourism on the Mediterranean islands.
The project employed bioindicators of seawater quality and involved stakeholders in developing management plans. These results show that a more integrated approach is more effective than a single-dimensional approach—this project’s results highlight the scientific community’s importance in managing coastal commercial waste.
The Mediterranean Coastal Waste Problem – Learn more about UK business waste statistics here
Other useful links from our Commercial Waste Centre
The Benefits of Dry Mixed Recycling
Looking After Your Business Bins
Commercial Skip Hire – How to Find a Cheap Deal
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