Public awareness on plastic pollution in the Mediterranean is critical for a number of reasons I will explain below, but mainly because it works. Yes public awareness activities on plastic pollution works, and more important, it is the first step to reduce plastic pollution.
We see that in most European countries the collection of plastic has increased over the last decade. However in Spain plastic collection has decreased in the last 10 years. Why? Because of the lack of governmental awareness and educational efforts combined with lax environmental regulation.
Plastic in Europe is a 400 billion euro business and provides direct employment to 1,5 million Europeans. Plastic is a very cheap and versatile product that we cannot get rid of overnight. In 2017 over 52 million ton of plastic was consumed in the Europe (1).
However plastic waste accounts for 95% of the waste in the Mediterranean. Each year 130.000 ton micro and 500.000 ton macro plastic ends up in the Mediterranean. This plastic waste comes mainly from Turkey and Spain, followed by Italy, Egypt and France, according to report published by the WWF in June 2018.
We cannot replace plastic and therefore the collection of plastic is key because collection avoids plastic getting in the sea. At this moment we barely collect 50% of the plastic consumed in Europe. The largest 6 consumers of Europe, Germany, Italy, France Spain, Poland and the UK , cover almost 70% of the European plastic demand. However there are significant differences in the collection of plastic waste per country as a percentage of the consumption.
In the year 2016, Germany collected 40% of the consumed plastic, compared to France that collected 69% of the consumed plastic in the same year, see list below: all countries source (1) except UK source (2).
- Germany 40%
- Italy 47%
- France 69%
- Spain 58%
- UK 93% (2)
- Poland 51%
- (1) Source PlasticsEurope Market Research Group (PEMRG) and Conversio Market & Strategy GmbHoland.
- (2) Source A plastic future WWF, prepared by EUNOMIA March 2018. Update September 2019 this number is incorrect, recycling in the UK is less than 50%.
The good news is that plastic collection can be very efficient. A good example is Norway where a plastic single use bottles are recollected at a rate of almost 98% by a company called Infinitum.
There is a clear task for the public and private sector to create awareness and educational programs to increase the plastic collection in other countries. Last week, Sophi Guillin, CEO of Groupe Guillin, sent a 2 page letter to share holders on plastic pollution and reuse of plastics in the light of the new European regulations.
Public awareness on plastic pollution in the Mediterranean is in the interest of the plastic industry, environmental movements and governments to reduce the impact of plastics.
BarcelonaSail continues its plastic pollution awareness program on board of our sail boats through free plastic fishing events. This is a fantastic event but reaches a small group. To reach out to a much larger audience BarcelonaSail developed an interactive event for 5000 people. This event will be launched in Oslo early next year and will be repeated in every European capital.
Creating public awareness on plastic pollution is the first step in reducing plastic pollution. Only with awareness we change the minds of people, collecting and reducing single-use plastic on a daily basis. Through our informative plastic blog posts and the the BarcelonaSail awareness events people will actively be part of a new era using and deposing plastic in away that embraces nature.