The Mediterranean Sea, despite its natural beauty and tourist attractions, is turning into a dangerous plastic trap, with record levels of plastic pollution that threaten marine species and human health. Every year, about half a million tonnes of plastic enters Mediterranean waters - the equivalent of dumping 33,800 plastic bottles into the sea every minute. One-third of plastic waste is mismanaged in the region, and without drastic action, this is expected to quadruple by 2050.
Plastics that end up in the sea have negative, and often lethal, effects on marine life: 134 Mediterranean species like turtles, seabirds and cetaceans are known to have ingested plastic, while microplastics have reached record levels of concentration almost four times higher than in other areas, impacting the whole ecosystem. In addition, plastic pollution is disrupting the Blue Economy of the Mediterranean, and littering its coastlines. Regional economic losses attributed to plastic pollution are estimated at €641 million per year, with tourism being the most affected. Ironically, the almost 300 million tourists that visit the Mediterranean each year, account for 40% of marine litter in the region during the summer holiday months, making tourism a key sector to focus on when tackling plastic in the region.
This is why coastal tourist cities have been the focus of WWF’s Plastic Smart Cities Initiative in the Mediterranean. The initiative was launched in 2019 with Nice (France) as the first city that committed to stop its plastic from entering the Mediterranean by 2025. The Initiative aims to partner with at least 25 Mediterranean cities or islands by 2022, ensuring they make measurable results against plastic leakage by 2030. These cities and islands will help build out WWF’s global ambition for 1000 Plastic Smart Cities and tourist destinations by 2030.
Together with Nice, the cities of Dubrovnik and Trogir (Croatia), Izmir and the Princes Islands (Turkey), Hammamet, Monastir and Gabes (Tunisia), and Tangier (Morocco), have signed their letter of intent to fight plastic pollution. Six additional cities have already committed to join in 2021, just as the Plastic Smart Cities Initiative begins to expand its reach and influence across the region.
Learn more about our work to stop plastic pollution in the Mediterranean.
* Image © Milos Bicanski