23 May 2014
Urban and industrial development raise many challenges today in the Mediterranean region, including management of waste and pollution, more than 90% of which originates on land. Besides the challenge of reducing pollution, essential elements in ongoing efforts for the ecological health of the Mediterranean are the sustainable management of maritime transport, oil exploration, industrial fishing and tourism.
We must also support the creation and management of protected marine areas in order to restore the most affected ecosystems, maintain fish stocks, and preserve certain endangered ecosystems. Beyond just observing the situation and sounding the alarm, we are working to promote innovation and solutions for the future of plastics. We want to make concrete progress in the ongoing political processes – on a regional, national and international level.
TO STIMULATE DEBATE: WHAT SOLUTIONS?
> Reducing pollution at the source: education, recycling, promotion of a circular economy.
> Integrated watershed management: cleaning of canals and rivers.
> Green packaging: producer responsibility.
> Bioplastics: derived from renewable biomass sources, biodegradable, oxo-fragmentables. What real impact will they have, and which ones are a real solution ?
> Reduction of chemical pollution at the source: international regulations.
> Research and innovation: plastic and micro-organisms. Which organisms can break down what types of plastic?
> Prohibition of single-use plastic bags: France could become an example in this area. Europe has already adopted (in May 2014) a text setting goals for member countries to reduce the number of single-use plastic bags. Tara considers this text as a step forward, but it is insufficient.
TWO FORMS OF PLASTIC POLLUTION AT SEA
> WASTE AND PLASTIC DEBRIS: Bottles, bottle caps, scraps. About 6 and a half million tons of waste are dumped annually in the oceans and seas of the world. 80% is plastic, or 206 pounds per second.
> MICROPLASTICS (< 5mm): granules, beads, microbeads, textile fibers – complex, invisible pollution difficult to treat. While macro-waste directly impacts fish and seabirds, microplastics have an impact on marine microorganisms and therefore the entire food chain.
THE MEDITERRANEAN IN NUMBERS
> 450 million people live in coastal areas of the Mediterranean, in 22 countries.
> In just 30 years, from 1970 to 2000, the overall population of the Mediterranean countries grew from 285 to 427 million people, with two collateral phenomena – coastal development and urbanization.
> The Mediterranean Sea is home to nearly 8% of marine biodiversity, although it represents only 0.8% of the ocean’s surface.
> We have now identified 925 invasive species in the Mediterranean. 56% of these are here to stay, according to a study by the Blue Plan (UNEP).
> The Mediterranean concentrates 30% of global maritime traffic, via the Suez Canal.
> There are about 60 offshore oil rigs for exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean.
> An estimated 90% of pollution in the Mediterranean comes from land.
> The Mediterranean region is the world’s largest tourist region, attracting about 30% of international tourism.