Egypt, Italy, and Turkey leak the most plastic into the Mediterranean. However, per capita, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia have the highest levels of leakage.
A new IUCN report finds that an estimated 229,000 tonnes of plastic ends up in the Mediterranean Sea every year, equivalent to over 500 shipping containers each day. Unless significant measures are taken to address mismanaged waste, the main source of the leakage, the volume will at least double by 2040.
Plastic pollution can cause long-term damage to terrestrial and marine ecosystems and biodiversity
Based on a compilation of data from field studies and using the IUCN marine plastic footprint methodology, the report, Mare Plasticum: The Mediterranean, developed in partnership with Environmental Action, estimates plastic fluxes from 33 countries around the Mediterranean basin.
Marine animals can get entangled or swallow plastic waste
Plastic pollution can cause long-term damage to terrestrial and marine ecosystems and biodiversity. Marine animals can get entangled or swallow plastic waste, and ultimately end up dying from exhaustion and starvation.
Additionally, plastic waste releases chemical substances such as softeners or fire retardants into the environment, which can be harmful to ecosystems and human health, especially in a semi-closed sea such as the Mediterranean.
Egypt, Italy, and Turkey are the countries with the highest plastic leakage rates into the Mediterranean
Egypt, with around 74,000 tonnes/year, Italy (34,000 tonnes/year) and Turkey (24,000 tonnes/year) are the countries with the highest plastic leakage rates into the Mediterranean, mainly due to high quantities of mismanaged waste and large coastal populations. Per capita, however, Montenegro (8kg/year/person), Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia (each contributing an estimated 3kg/year/person) have the highest levels of leakage, the report reads.
Tyre dust is the largest source of plastic leakage, followed by textiles, microbeads in cosmetics
The report finds that macroplastics resulting from mismanaged waste make up 94% 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). The report estimates that more than one million tonnes of plastic has accumulated in the Mediterranean Sea.
Tyre dust is the largest source of leakage (53%), followed by textiles (33%), microbeads in cosmetics (12%), and production pellets (2%).
Current and planned measures are not enough to reduce plastic leakage and prevent these impacts, said Minna Epps, Director, IUCN Global Marine and Polar Programme.