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World Environment Day: Plastic Pollution Threatens Marine Life in Greece

Plastic pollution Greece
Microplastic pollutants were found in all 25 marine animals examined in the Aegean. Credit: Archipelagos Institute for Marine Conservation

A recent study on the extent of plastic pollution in Greece found microplastic pollutants in all 25 marine animals examined.

The study conducted by the Archipelagos Institute for Marine Conservation was released prior to the World Environment Day marked on Monday which is dedicated to plastic pollution.

Titled “First Assessment of Micro-Litter Ingested by Dolphins, Sea Turtles and Monk Seals Found Stranded along the Coasts of Samos Island, Greece,” it examined the presence of microplastics and other plastics in stranded marine life, including four species of marine mammals and two species of sea turtles found dead on the shores of the northeast Aegean.

The research was carried out in collaboration with scientists from Italy and Mexico.

Plastic pollution threatens marine life in Greece

It found microplastic pollutants in all 25 marine animals examined (Eight dolphins, two Mediterranean monk seals and 15 sea turtles), with a total of 10,639 microplastic fibres detected in their gastrointestinal tracts.

The results indicate that plastic waste has already penetrated all levels of the ecosystems and food chain of the Greek seas.

The Mediterranean is one of the most impacted seas in the world by plastic debris, with an estimated 43.55 pieces of litter per 100 m2 of the seabed, of which 70-80 percent is plastic.

In recent years, even smaller fragments of plastic waste, so-called nanoplastics, have emerged as much more dangerous, as they can penetrate into the tissues of organisms – also humans – with serious effects that have yet to be determined in detail, the study says.

Millions of tonnes of plastic end up in lakes, rivers and seas annually

The United Nations says that more than 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced every year worldwide, half of which is designed to be used only once. Of that, less than 10 percent is recycled.

An estimated 19-23 million tonnes end up in lakes, rivers and seas annually. That is approximately the weight of 2,200 Eiffel Towers altogether.

Microplastics – tiny plastic particles up to 5mm in diameter – find their way into food, water and air. It is estimated that each person on the planet consumes more than 50,000 plastic particles per year –and many more if inhalation is considered.

Discarded or burnt single-use plastic harms human health and biodiversity and pollutes every ecosystem from mountain tops to the ocean floor.

With available science and solutions to tackle the problem, governments, companies and other stakeholders must scale up and speed actions to solve this crisis.

This underscores the importance of this World Environment Day in mobilizing transformative action from every corner of the world, the UN says.

Led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and held annually on 5 June since 1973, World Environment Day is the largest global platform for environmental public outreach and is celebrated by millions of people across the world. In 2023, it is hosted by Côte D’Ivoire.

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