We are midway along #plasticfreejuly
Have you joined? How are you doing?
For those who have not heard of it, this is an encouragement to avoid producing any plastic waste over the month of July. As I am trying to live generally a plastic free lifestyle I have not particularly taken on board the challenge to go plastic free for just one month, but instead I gave myself the challenge to use this month as an ‘excuse’ to look into my waste and see where I can improve and what am I consuming and wasting the most ( so far yoghurt containers are the winners...). This is not only a good moment to stop and reflect but also one to improve my understandings and to gather more knowledge on plastic waste. I figured that it would be a good idea to summarise some of my findings for you as a new series of posts.
You know how much I love the sea, so, for the start of the series I want to focus on the issue of ocean plastic (see this previous post for some background) and in particular on the plastic present in the Mediterranean Sea (my first love). I recently found out that while the Mediterranean constitutes only 1% of the worldwide water bodies , it contains 7% of worldwide ocean plastic . And sadly , Italy is the third major contributor of this. Sadly , yes, but not surprising, considering the amount of coastline that we have in this country!
Interestingly , because of the relatively small surface of the Mediterranean compared to other oceans and because of the current systems which are much less prominent compared to ocean systems, the Mediterranean lack the typical ‘plastic islands’ and the plastic that ends up in the sea arrives instead directly back onto the coasts. And, go figure, since Italy has a lot of coastline a lot of the plastic comes back home...
I recently attended an event called ‘the plastic lagoon’ where I heard Paolo Franceschetti, the leader of Legambiente (an in italian non profit environmental association) in the Venice area, talking about some of the work done by the association on the topic. While the talk was primarily focussed on the Venice area, He also gave a very informative summary of some of the research done so far by the organisation around the whole mediterranean. They published the Mediterranean marine litter report (2018) in which is highlighted that plastic constitutes 80% of all of the litter found on the beach and that 42% of this comes from bad management of urban refuses . This does not mean only urban areas near the coast, You might in fact think that if you live ‘in land’ then your rubbish can not possibly end up in the sea. Think again. The planet is full of intricate water networks, and all streams will enter rivers and eventually all of this water will end up in the sea! So everything can find its way into our seas and then back onto our beaches..
In the report they also showed that plastic pieces, plastic caps, ear buds, plastic bottles and polystyrene are the main sources of plastic encountered. While i was already pretty aware about plastic piece, cups, bottles, cotton buds and other ‘toiletries’, the polystyrene shocked me a little. Yes some packages still are wrapped in this terrible material, but another major user of it is the fishing industry ! And in fact at least 6% of the sources of refuse comes directly from the fishing industry. Okay , 6% doesn’t sound like a lot a lot but still , it seems relatively high from an industry that relies on the health of such seas for their lives.
Now. I really don’t want to get you all mad with the fishermen because this is really NOT the point of this post .At the same time , I believe that the industry can benefit from being improved. Maybe encouraging the use of different materials for the packaging, encouraging proper disposal,maybe with a money scheme or at least by making it easier. I know that to most reading the life of a fisherman might seem easy, and fish is expensive so they must make some money, right!? Well, you wake up early morning and work on a rocking boat all day regardless of the weather, then tell me if you still have energy to get out of your way and dispose properly of those boxes/ bits of broken nets or maybe you will just leave them in some provisional rubbish pile at the harbour. I would like to hope that just a few simple improvements would change things for the better..perhaps if they could find a way of monetising fishing material waste (e.g. by making fabrics for swimming materials?)
to summarise, I believe that some of our plastic-in -the-sea issues come down to designing better disposal systems, both in places near the coasts but also considering disposal in lands as it can definitely get to the sea!! And of course, less is better, so please let’s all continue to reduce !
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