New report from WWF on World Oceans Day also shows that plastics account for 95% of litter entering the Mediterranean Sea, threatening marine wildlife in the sea and on beaches across the popular holiday destination

Holidaymakers cause a 40 percent surge in marine litter — 95 percent of it plastic — entering the Mediterranean Sea each summer, according to a new report from WWF. With over 200 million tourists visiting the holiday hotspot each year, WWF is urging holidaymakers to take steps to minimise their plastic footprint to protect the Mediterranean and its unique wildlife.

WWF’s report, released to mark World Oceans Day (which was on Friday 8th June), shows that the majority of plastic waste polluting the Mediterranean Sea coming from Turkey and Spain, followed by Italy, Egypt and France – countries where over 34 million Brits are preparing to holiday this year.

Home to almost 25,000 plant and animal species – of which 60 percent are unique to the region – the Mediterranean holds only one percent of the world’s water, but it contains seven percent of all of the world’s microplastic waste. Plastics have also been found in oysters and mussels, while crisp packets and cigarettes have been found in large fish.

Tanya Steele, chief executive at WWF said:

“The Mediterranean is a beautiful holiday destination enjoyed by millions of British people each summer but when we come home with our happy memories, we’re leaving behind a toxic legacy of plastic waste. The birds, fish, and turtles of the Mediterranean are choking on plastic, but our report also shows plastic is ending up in the fish and seafood we eat on holiday.

“That’s why we’re asking people to think about how they can cut down on the amount of single-use plastic they use and throw away on holiday. By drinking tap water where it’s safe to do so, refusing plastic straws and stirrers or skipping the disposable inflatable pool toy, we can all be part of the solution and not the problem.”

 

Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) trapped in a drifting abandoned net, Mediterranean Sea
Photo Credit Jordi Chias

 

WWF’s report also calculated Europe is the second largest plastics producer in the world, after China, dumping as much as 500,000 tonnes of macroplastics in the sea every year – that’s the equivalent of 66,000 full rubbish trucks. These large plastic pieces injure, suffocate and often kill marine animals, including endangered sea turtles and monk seals.

And microplastics – tiny plastic fragments, such as those often found in cosmetics – have reached record levels in the Mediterranean, of almost four times higher than the famous “plastic island” found in the North Pacific Ocean.

The tiny broken down pieces of plastic are eaten by fish and then enter the food chain, until they reach our dinner plates on holiday. On average, someone eating fish in Europe could ingest up to 11,000 pieces of microplastic per year.

This summer, WWF is urging governments, businesses and individuals to all adopt a number of actions to reduce plastic waste, especially on holiday. And closer to home, WWF would like to see an end to avoidable single-use plastic in the UK by 2025 including a ban on items such as plastic straws, cutlery and stirrers.

For more information on how to reduce your own plastic waste and join the fight against single-use plastics suffocating our oceans visit www.org.uk/plasticfreesummer

Photo credit: Feature photo Milos Bicanski