Mediterranean could become a 'sea of plastic': WWF

Researchers say that the Med's high concentration of microplastics is spreading bacteria and risks being ingested by animals and humans.
Empty plastic bottles and floating trash in the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea in Beirut, Lebanon, on May 28, 2018.
Empty plastic bottles and floating trash in the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea in Beirut, Lebanon, on May 28, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MARSEILLE (AFP) - The Mediterranean could become a "sea of plastic", the WWF warned on Friday (June 8) in a report calling for measures to clean up one of the world's worst affected bodies of water.

The WWF said the Mediterranean had record levels of "micro-plastics," the tiny pieces of plastic less than 5mm in size which can be found increasingly in the food chain, posing a threat to human health.

"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 problem, as all over the world, is simply that plastics have become an essential part of our daily lives while recycling only accounts for a third of the waste in Europe.

Plastic represents 95 per cent of the waste floating in the Mediterranean and on its beaches, with most coming from Turkey and Spain, followed by Italy, Egypt and France, the report said.

To tackle the problem, there has to be an international agreement to reduce the dumping of plastic waste and to help clear up the mess at sea, the WWF said.

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 recyclable and compostable products made out of renewable raw materials, not chemicals derived from oil.

Indidviduals too have their role to play, making personal choices such as to use combs or kitchen utensils made of wood, not plastic, the WWF said.