Small Garbage


Now you see it, now you don’t…
We treat our seas like a waste bin, an ashtray, a toilet, assuming we have disposed of our garbage, when in reality we have only moved it elsewhere…The Deadly Illusion!

Every year in addition to the 150 million people living along the Mediterranean coastline, over 200 million tourists contribute to over 15 million tons of garbage. Garbage is becoming an overwhelming threat to this fragile ecosystem as the waters of this beautiful "enclosed sea" take more than 100 years to renew.

"Small Garbage", the small pieces of personal waste, casually discarded on beaches or directly into the sea have devastating effects on the marine environment. Each year it is estimated that 6.4 million tons of 'small' and 'large' garbage are dumped into the world's oceans and seas. Besides looking unsightly, garbage represents a considerable hazard to both people and marine wildlife. Entanglement and ingestion of "Small Garbage", accounts for the deaths of over 100,000 sea mammals and sea turtles in the world each year.

The most common and destructive objects are made from the extremely durable, lightweight, versatile and inexpensive plastic. With varying sizes, colours and shapes, they are often mistaken for food by sea creatures and sea birds: Floating plastic pellets (a by-product of plastic manufacturing) resemble fish eggs, and plastic bags in the water look like jellyfish, a favourite food of sea turtles. It is estimated that worldwide 500 billion to one trillion plastic bags are produced each year! Billions end up in the sea and on the shores. Turtles who mistakenly eat them may suffocate; their digestive tract blocked or may feel full, though in reality they may be starving to death! Air bubbles in plastics consumed can prevent turtles from diving for food.

One turtle in Greece had nearly 10m² of plastic in its stomach
Plastics contain harmful toxic compounds, such as PCBs , which once ingested, can affect reproduction and the animal’s natural ability to resist disease. Toxic substances can remain in their body, so when predators eat sea creatures these substances are passed up the food chain, becoming more concentrated each time (a process called bio-accumulation). Predators, like marine mammals and turtles, at the top of the food chain are affected the most. Declining seal populations and increasing occurrence of miscarriages have been linked to PCB poisoning.

A discarded cigarette packet poses multiple hazards: Firstly the plastic pull strip and wrapper, look like small jellyfish, then there is the foil, which resembles a fish and the empty carton itself further pollutes. Unsightly cigarette butts absorb toxins like a sponge and appear in their hundreds of thousands on beaches across the Mediterranean, with unknown consequences on marine life.

How You Can Help?
  • Dispose of litter in bins provided, or take it with you.
  • Choose to buy products wrapped in environmentally friendly packaging (min. plastic), say no to plastic bags.
  • Make an effort to recycle aluminium cans, paper, glass
  • Cut all plastic loops (e.g. Six-pack loop rings) before disposal, to prevent wildlife becoming entangled.
  • Help with beach cleaning projects whenever possible.
  • Make your voice heard! Vote for the greenest candidate.
  • Tell your friends about the hazards of 'small garbage' on the sea and coastal environment.
  • Help and support local conservation organisations to protect wildlife and nature.