5 facts about plastic pollution in the Mediterranean French coast | WWF

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5 facts about plastic pollution in the Mediterranean French coast

With its legendary beaches, its dream climate and outstanding nature, the French Riviera is one of the most glamorous coasts of the Mediterranean. But even this heaven has become a plastic hell. Let's get to know some key facts about plastic pollution in France.

1. France releases 11,200 tonnes of plastic waste in the Mediterranean Sea every year

Although it is the richest Mediterranean country, France ranked in the 5th place for recycling of domestic plastic waste in 2016 (22% of plastics were recycled). The rest, a total of 3.4 million tonnes of plastic waste, was incinerated (1.8 Mt) or buried (1.6 Mt). 80,000 tonnes of uncollected plastic waste risked leaking into nature and the sea.

Each year, 11,200 tonnes of plastic is dumped by France in the Mediterranean. It is estimated that this plastic pollution costs the French economy about 73 million euros per year, affecting the tourism, maritime trade and fisheries sectors.

Reducing plastic consumption, while increasing reuse and recycling instead of incineration will be crucial to ensure zero leakage into nature.

2. The plastic crisis is aggravated by tourism and coastal activities

In France, coastal activities are the cause of 79% of plastics entering the Mediterranean, due to poor waste management and the impact of tourism and leisure activities. In addition, rivers carry 12% of the waste found in the sea, while 9% comes from maritime activities. 21% of the plastic pollution discharged in the Mediterranean comes back to the coast within one year. If you want to know more about plastic pollution in France, read our latest report.

3. Plastic pollution threatens cetaceans

Fin whales, sperm whales and pilot whales living in the Mediterranean are reported to be contaminated by phthalates. Phthalates are chemical compounds used in some common plastic items like plastic films, packaging, floor coverings, pipes, cables etc. Some phthalates are endocrine disruptors, as they can interfere with the hormonal system and cause reproductive and developmental disorders. If you want to know more, read our blog about WWF's scientific research in the Pelagos Sanctuary for cetaceans.

4. The French coast is a hotspot of plastic pollution

The concentration of plastic waste is very high along the French coast, especially near Marseille, Nice and Corsica. These three areas concentrate hundreds of plastic per square kilometre, so they have a fundamental role to play in reducing their use of plastics, promoting reusable products, ensuring better waste recycling and eliminating discards in nature. If you want to know mor about plastic hotspots in the Mediterranean, read our latest report.

5. Coastal cities can put in place key solutions to avoid any plastic waste into the sea

Plastic is a complex and pervasive problem and it requires multiple levels of engagement and stakeholders. WWF works with policymakers, businesses and citizens to ensure that they all take their responsibility. Cities are important players as they can do a lot to improve their waste management, reduce production and consumption and educate citizens to more responsible behaviours. This is why the collaboration with the city of Nice, that WWF signed on August 15, is a key step to move forward in the fight against plastic pollution. In the next 3 years, Nice (Côte d'Azur) and WWF-France will work together to develop an action plan to eliminate plastic waste from the territory. Marseille is expected to follow suit.

© Denis Ody / WWF
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