Can a very polluted sea be saved?

Summer, sun, plastic waste - the Mediterranean is suffocating in plastic

Anyone who visits beaches away from the tourist strongholds during their vacation on the Mediterranean Sea is confronted with the situation immediately: If no cleaning staff laboriously clean the beach early in the morning, you not only run through fine-grain sand, but also through a lot of plastic waste.

Disposable bottles, lighters, remnants of fishing nets and individual flip-flops collect mainly on the coasts of the most popular travel destinations:Barcelona, ​​Valencia, Tel Aviv, but also the coasts of Marseille, Venice, the Po Delta and Cilicia in Turkey are among the most badly polluted coastal regions on the Mediterranean with plastic waste. As the number of tourists increases, so does the amount of plastic waste in the tourist regions in the summer season by up to 40 percent and regularly overwhelms the municipal waste disposal companies.

Too little plastic is recycled or used multiple times

The extent of the plastic waste problem in and around the Mediterranean is primarily reflected in the appalling numbers:Every year more than half a million tons of plastic waste ends up in the Mediterranean. That corresponds to 33,800 plastic bottles per minute!More than half of the plastic produced in the Mediterranean region ends up in the garbage within a year,only a fraction is recycled or reused. 6.6 million tons of plastic waste annually are not collected or end up directly in illegal landfills and thus in the environment. Rubbish also ends up in the sea via open landfills with the wind and rivers. Once landed there, 80 percent of this garbage is washed back onto the coasts over the course of ten years.

The three neighboring countries of Egypt, Turkey and Italy are among the largest polluters.Two thirds of all plastic waste comes from here. Alone32 million plastic bottles are made in Italy every day used - aEurope-wide record. Guiseppe die Carlo, director of the WWF Mediterranean program, notes that the other Mediterranean countries also paint a sad picture with regard to the plastic waste problem: "All Mediterranean countries are failing to collect waste and have to overhaul their entire plastic cycle. We need to manufacture and use less plastic and invest seriously in recycling and reusable systems. This is the only way we can keep plastic waste out of the Mediterranean. "

German plastic waste clogs recycling plants in Turkey

Although the Mediterranean is a long way from Germany, German rubbish also ends up in the Mediterranean region. Because Germany also exports its plastic waste to Turkey for disposal. These quantities increased significantly after China's import ban on plastic waste last year. Germany sent over 50,000 tons of plastic waste to Turkey in 2018. "In the worst case, there is a risk that plastic waste will also be stored in the open, burned or released into the environment in an uncontrolled manner," says WWF plastics expert Bernhard Bauske.Instead of clogging the recycling plants of other countries with German plastic waste, Germany should support other countries in establishing better collection and sorting systems.

From 2030, no more plastic parts should end up in nature

Because the scale of the problem is so gigantic, quick and consistent action is required. That is why the WWF has set itself an ambitious goal:By 2030 at the latest, not a single piece of plastic should end up in the environment on the Mediterranean coast! An important first step in this direction is the directive passed by the EU Parliament in March 2019, according to which straws, drinking cups and cutlery made of single-use plastic should disappear from the European market from 2021. The manufacturers of products made from single-use plastic are also to be given a share of the costs for beach cleaning, for example.

But further measures are urgently needed:Germany and the EU must work even more intensively than before for an international UN agreement against the entry of plastic waste into the sea.But tourists and locals also have to rethink their approach, avoid single-use products and put governments and businesses under pressure to take the necessary measures.

In April 2019 one found22 kilos of plastic waste in the stomach of a sperm whale washed up on the Italian coast. And unfortunately it wasn't an isolated incident. Turtles suffocate in the remains of fishing nets and many sea birds starve to death because their digestive systems are clogged with plastic. "Nature pays the highest price for pollution in the Mediterranean", says Bernhard Bauske. But in the end, people too. Because about the fish on the platethe plastic ends up in the stomachs of locals and tourists

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