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#WorldOceansDay: Mediterranean could become a 'sea of plastic'

The WWF calls for measures to clean up one of the world's worst affected bodies of water.

Athens, Greece

A major conservation organisation has warned that the Mediterranean could become a "sea of plastic", calling for measures to clean up one of the world's worst affected bodies of water.

In a report published on Friday, coinciding with World Oceans Day, the Wold Wildlife Fund (WWF) said the Mediterranean had record levels of micro-plastics - tiny pieces of plastic less than five millimetres in size which can be found increasingly in the food chain and pose a threat to human health.

"The concentration of micro-plastics is nearly four times higher" in the Mediterranean compared with open seas elsewhere in the world, said the study, titled Out of the Plastic Trap: Saving the Mediterranean from Plastic Pollution.

Plastic represents 95 percent of the waste floating in the Mediterranean and on its beaches, with most coming from Turkey and Spain, followed by Italy, Egypt and France, the report said.

John Tanzer, leader of the WWF International oceans programme, said the effects of plastic pollution in the Mediterranean are "also being felt across the world and are causing serious harm both to nature and human health".

To tackle the problem, there has to be an international agreement to reduce the dumping of plastic waste and to help clear up the mess at sea, the WWF said. 

All countries around the Mediterranean should boost recycling, ban single-use plastics and phase out the use of micro-plastics in detergents or cosmetics.

Plastic is one of the biggest environmental threats facing the planet, according to the United Nations.

By some estimates, as many as five trillion plastic bags are used worldwide every year.

"Our world is swamped by harmful plastic waste," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a speech on Tuesday.

"Micr-oplastics in the seas now outnumber stars in our galaxy, from remote islands to the Arctic, nowhere is untouched." 

"If present trends continue, by 2050 our oceans will have more plastic than fish," he added.

Globally, eight million tonnes of plastic is dumped into the ocean every year, killing marine life and entering the human food chain, according to the UN Environment Programme. 

Late last month, the European Commission called for a ban on single-use plastic products, including cutlery and straws, in an effort to combat ocean and beach pollution.

The proposals also included obligations for producers to help cover the costs of clean-up and waste management for items such as cigarette butts, wet wipes and lightweight plastic bags. 


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