Over 2 lakh tonnes of plastic dumped into the Mediterranean each year: Report

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New Delhi (NVI): Around 2,29,000 tonnes of plastic is dumped into the Mediterranean Sea every year, which could more than double by 2040 unless significant measures are taken to address mismanaged waste, according to the IUCN report.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) report showed that macro-plastics resulting from mismanaged waste make up 94 per cent of the total plastic leakage.

“Once washed into the sea, plastic mostly settles in the sediments in the form of microplastics (particles smaller than 5mm),” it added.

According to the report, Egypt, Italy and Turkey are the countries with the highest plastic leakage rates into the sea, mainly due to high quantities of mismanaged waste and large coastal populations. But on per capita, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia have the highest levels of leakage into the Mediterranean.

The report, tittled “Mare Plasticum: The Mediterranean”, developed in partnership with Environmental Action, estimates that more than one million tonnes of plastic have accumulated in the Mediterranean Sea.

Minna Epps, Director, IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme said, “Plastic pollution can cause long-term damage to terrestrial and marine ecosystems and biodiversity. Also, marine animals can get entangled or swallow plastic waste, and ultimately end up dying from exhaustion and starvation.”

Moreover, primary microplastics – plastics that enter the oceans in the form of small particles, as opposed to larger plastic waste that degrades in the water – the plastic flow into the Mediterranean is estimated at 13,000 tonnes/year.

In addition to this, the report points out different leakage scenarios and assesses key actions that could contribute to cutting plastic flows into the Mediterranean over next 20 years.

“Improving waste management, starting with waste collection, has the greatest potential to reduce plastic leakage over time,” it stated.

The report also highlights that more than 50,000 tonnes of plastic leakage into the Mediterranean could be avoided each year if waste management were to be improved to global best practice standards in the top 100 contributing cities alone.

Additionally, a ban on plastic bags in the Mediterranean Sea basin region would further reduce plastic leakage into the sea by another 50,000 tonnes per year.

“Governments, private sector, research institutions and other industries and consumers need to work collaboratively to redesign processes and supply chains, invest in innovation and adopt sustainable consumption patterns and improved waste management practices to close the plastic tap,” said Antonio Troya, Director of the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation.

However, the plastic pollution is harmful to marine wildlife, through entanglement, or by causing starvation when ingested. It is also thought to accumulate in the food web, with potentially negative impacts on human health, the report said.

-RJV