More than 1,455 tonnes of plastic are currently believed to be floating on the Mediterranean Sea, while 94% of plastic waste is currently coating the seabed, based on the latest estimates. According to the head of Greenpeace’s campaign for the protection of the marine environment Alkis Kafetzis, “the numbers are disappointing.”
“The problem is huge,” Kafetzis said, talking to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA). “Our dependence on disposable plastic has converted the seas into a huge rubbish dump. It is so serious that certain regions of the country have decided to place floating barriers on busy beaches that will contain floating refuse so that it does not cause a problem to bathers.”
Greece produces between 180,000-300,000 tonnes of plastic packaging a year, while the total annual demand for plastic is estimated to be around 500,000 tonnes. Only a very small percentage of this amount is recycled, while the Institute for Retail Consumer Goods Research (IELKA) estimates that Greeks use 363 plastic bags per person each year.
“Unless we drastically reduce the single-use plastic in our lives, the problem is going to get bigger and no solution will be enough,” Kafetzis stressed.
Greenpeace intends to launch a campaign to make the public more aware of the problems, he said, with Greenpeace ship “Rainbow Warrior” arriving to sail Greek seas this summer, allowing free visits on board and an open deck to anyone that wants to learn about the issue.
Its ports of call will include the island of Zakynthos on July 20-21, Iraklion on July 24-25 and Syros on July 30-31. These stops are part of a Mediterranean tour that began in June from Spain, passing through Italy and Croatia on the way to Greece and continuing to Bulgaria.
Kafetzis also is urging Greeks to reduce the use of plastics, to reuse, to recycle and finally to “bin” and not throw plastic away on coasts and beaches. “The greatest responsibility lies with companies and policies but consumers have their own share of responsibility and can intervene to the extent they are able,” he explained.
research has shown that some 80% of plastic found in oceans comes from the land. The rest is from ships, oil rigs and freighters. Scientists estimate that, due to extensive use of disposable one-use plastic and inadequate waste management systems, some 4.8-12.7 million tonnes of rubbish end up in the oceans. For the 23 EU countries with a shoreline, the figure is 50-120,000 tonnes.
Also, Large plastic packaging, such as bags, has a devastating impact on sea turtles, monks and dolphins that get caught in them or swallow them. An even greater number of organisms can swallow microscopic pieces of plastic — or micro plastics (less than 5mm) — which pose a grave danger to marine ecosystems.