Plastic Pollution in the Mediterranean: Alarming Report by WWF and Action Plans

June 7th 2019

On the eve of the World Ocean Day, the WWF published a new alarming report (*) on plastic pollution in the Mediterranean. This report analyzes the responsibility of the 22 Mediterranean countries for tackling this scourge and the solutions at national and regional level.

The 22 countries generate 24 million tonnes of plastic waste, of which 42% is landfilled, 14% is incinerated and only 16% is recycled. The remaining 28% is inefficiently managed (uncollected, in uncontrolled or open dumps) and is likely to pollute nature and the Mediterranean. It is estimated that a quarter of the region's plastic waste is released into the wild each year, with 600,000 tonnes, or 33,800 plastic bottles per minute, ending up in the Mediterranean Sea.

According to the WWF, the number of plastic waste is expected to quadruple in the region by 2050. "Coastal activities are responsible for 50% of plastics entering the sea," says the WWF.

With each new tourist season, "the Mediterranean Sea turns into an open sewer," the WWF warns.

The number of waste thrown at it the Mediterranean increases by 40%. According to the NGO, Turkish Cilicia is by far the most polluted coast, followed by tourist beaches like Barcelona, Tel Aviv, Valencia, Marseille, and Venice.

Egypt tops the riparian countries in terms of the dumping of plastic at sea, followed by Turkey. In the southern Mediterranean, the three most polluting cities in plastic discharge at sea are Tel Aviv, Algiers, and Alexandria.

"Significant gaps and responsibilities exist at all levels: producers, governments, and consumers," says the WWF. The NGO calls on tourists to "avoid single-use plastics as much as possible."

At the regional level, the WWF is calling on governments to support a binding multilateral agreement to halt plastic discards in the Mediterranean by 2030. This can be negotiated under the Barcelona Convention, whose next assembly will take place in December 2019 in Naples.

(*) WWF's report "Stop the flood of plastics: How Mediterranean countries can save their sea" is available in English. In addition, the Mediterranean is pinned (in light green) on the WWF map of critical regions in the world.