French researchers have revealed a threefold increase in the volume of litter at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea since the 1990s, prompting calls for EU countries to step up action on waste and quickly apply the EU directive on single-use plastics.
According to a study (Report Abstract) published this month by the French Research Institute on the Exploitation of Seas (Ifremer), the Mediterranean is now Europe’s “most polluted sea” in terms of the amount of litter, mostly plastic, covering its seabed.
The density per square kilometre of items such as plastic bottles, fishing tackle and discarded clothing rose from an average of 100 items in the 1990s to 200 by 2012, with a peak of almost 300 reached in 2015. In comparison, the figure for the North Sea remains below 50.
Researchers found waste at all depths in 90% of the area analysed, with plastic accounting for 60% of the litter. The increase is only partly explained by more systematic monitoring under EU legislation, they said in the report.
In June, WWF published a study showing that Mediterranean countries generate 24 million tonnes of plastic waste every year, but manage only 72 per cent through controlled waste treatment.