Plastics in the Mediterranean

Macro, micro and nano plastics threaten Mediterranean species, ecosystems and human health. The Mediterranean is the sixth greatest accumulation zone for marine litter: this sea holds only 1% of the world’s waters, but concentrates 7% of all global microplastics. As a semi-enclosed sea, the Mediterranean is particularly vulnerable to plastics. In terms of marine litter floating in the sea, plastics account for more than 85% as for litter on the sea floor. In fact, even if plastics have been observed on shorelines, in surface waters and in the water column, the vast majority of it is accumulating on the seafloor, mostly in the form of microplastics in the deep-sea sediments.

plastic pollution in the mediterranean

Impacts of plastic in the Mediterranean

component separator

Plastic pollution can have a long-term negative impact on terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity. Much of it ends up in landfills, where it may take up to 1,000 years to decompose, leaching potentially toxic substances into the soil, sediments and rivers. 

Plastic sunrise

The most visible impacts on marine biodiversity are the ingestion, suffocation and entanglement of marine species. The deep-sea acts as a sink for plastic pollution. Most recently, an IUCN report found that an estimated 229,000 tonnes of plastic is leaking into the Mediterranean Sea every year.


The ways in which plastic waste affects people’s quality of life include reduced recreational opportunities, loss of aesthetic value, and loss of non-use value. All this can have an indirect economic impact in many sectors and lead to a loss of tourism and related revenues. 

fish plastic

Microplastics deriving from mismanaged agri-plastics waste and from the fragmentation of larger plastic items at sea threaten human health. The increase of microplastics can affect human health and the livelihoods of those who depend on fisheries for a living.

Focus priorities 

We aim to take action to turn these problems into solutions by: 

Bringing together Actors to develop solutions to plastic waste management in the Mediterranean basin. 

Enhancing capacities of coastal cities and islands to reduce plastic leakage into the environment. 

Providing scientific evidence to policy-makers, manufacturers and consumers to spearhead appropriate technological.

IUCN-Med is looking for PARTNERSHIPS
to build alliances, fund and implement projects on: 

1. Enhancing the knowledge on the origins of marine plastics.

  • Improve knowledge of the current status of plastic pollution through identifying plastic leakage hostspots and policy and economic assessments to provide recommendations based on results.

2. Engaging stakeholders to develop solutions to plastic leakage and reduce use.

  • Develop a network of enterprises in the Mediterranean basin and foster innovative business solutions to accelerate the prevention of plastic pollution through the initiative BeMed.

3. Reducing plastic leakage in the Mediterranean basin.

  • Tackle plastic waste pollution deriving from agricultural practices and affecting soil biodiversity.
  • Provide science-based policy recommendations about the micro-plastic pollution affecting the deep-sea ecosystem.

For those interested please send an email to with the subject line "Partnerships for Plastics"