Plastic pollution in the Mediterranean

Plastic pollution in the Mediterranean

On 3 November 2020, Spanish Member of    the European Parliament (MEP) César Luena of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:         

“The Mediterranean Sea accounts for roughly 1% of the surface area of the planet’s oceans. Some 24 countries in Europe and North Africa have a coastline on the Mediterranean. It accounts for 2% of the world’s fisheries and is home to 25 000 plant species and 10 000 species of marine wildlife.

In 2018, the EU banned the sale and import of single-use products with a view to phasing them out by 2021. The aim was to put a stop to pollution in the seas and oceans. However, a report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature entitled ‘The Mediterranean: Mare Plasticum’ pointed out that 229 000 tonnes of plastic are dumped each year. Egypt, Italy and Turkey have the highest waste figures. This is principally down to large coastal populations and poor waste management. Furthermore, a scientific review carried out by the Litterbase project in 2017 estimated that 1 341 species have interacted with marine debris via colonisation, ingestion, entanglement or suffocation.

1. What steps is the Commission taking to help Member States improve waste management?

2. What specifically is the Commission doing under the European neighbourhood policy to improve coordination between Europe and North Africa with a view to protecting the Mediterranean Sea and its biodiversity?”

On 2 February 2021, Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “The Commission has been supporting Member States in the implementation of EU waste legislation, including by compliance promotion and early warning exercises to identify Member States that are at risk of not meeting targets and other obligations. The Environmental Implementation Review process, including the Peer to Peer tool supports reforms and capacity building.

Funding for Member States to move to a zero-waste economy will continue to be available e.g., via Cohesion policy funds, the Recovery and Resilience Facility, InvestEU, the EU programme for the environment and climate action and Horizon Europe. To help Member States in their responsibility of dealing with waste during the pandemic, the Commission published a guidance note.

As regards the biodiversity protection in the Mediterranean Sea, the Commission supports the establishment and management of marine protected areas under the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea.

Concerning marine litter, the EU-funded Marine Litter MED Project has supported waste reduction and prevention measures in seven Mediterranean Countries for the implementation of ‘Adopt-a-Beach’ and ‘Fishing-for-Litter’ measures, phasing out of single-use plastic bags and better management of marine litter in ports and marinas.

In addition, the EU-funded regional programme SwitchMed provides support for the transition to sustainable and circular business models in the Southern Neighbourhood region, including for actions to find alternatives to single-use packaging and to improve the collection, reuse and recycling of packaging waste to reduce marine litter.”


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