Zero waste on beaches, a solution to combat the omnipresence of plastics in the Mediterranean Sea

  • In the Mediterranean Sea, 80% of marine litter comes from land-based sources and 80% is plastic. It is estimated that on average 250,000 different pieces of waste per square kilometre are dumped on beaches every day during the tourist season.
  • The Zero Beach project, coordinated by Rezero and eco-union, has shown that banning smoking on beaches can reduce the presence of cigarette butts by up to 80%.
  • The banning of smoking on beaches and the limitation of disposable plastics in beach bars could be implemented immediately on the Catalan coast, avoiding a large amount of marine debris.

Beaches are one of the most crowded spaces during the summer on the entire Catalan and Mediterranean coast, with frequent images of beaches full of waste (plastic, cigarettes, etc.). It is estimated that there is an average daily contribution of 250,000 different pieces of waste per square kilometre on the beaches during the tourist season, 80% of which is plastic.

Alejandro González, from eco-union, points out that sun and beach tourism is a very important environmental pressure factor, since it is responsible for a 40% increase in waste during the Mediterranean summer.

But, what would a zero waste beach look like?

Rosa Garcia, from Rezero, explains that in this transition towards a zero waste society, the Zero Beach project is involving different municipalities to seek solutions and specific measures such as enjoying smoke-free spaces and reducing all disposable materials such as bottles, straws, cutlery, etc., which are the main types of plastic found in the seas, and to encourage return systems with incentives that notably avoid the abandonment of this waste.

Last summer, the first pilot tests of the project on three beaches in El Prat, Gavà and Castelldefels, reduced the presence of cigarette butts by up to 80% and recovered more than 900 containers during one week at three prevention points.

The promoting entities ask the public institutions to go beyond the voluntary actions and create a new regulatory framework that provides instruments and resources to the municipalities and to the Generalitat in order to assume effective measures that guarantee the enjoyment of beaches free of waste.

The future Law on Waste Prevention and Management and Efficient Use of Resources, which is being debated this year, is an opportunity to implement measures that limit, on the one hand, the placing of disposable plastics on the market and, on the other hand, prevent plastic products, such as drink containers, from reaching the sea, by implementing a deposit, return and reintegration system (SDDR). It is also time to include beaches as public spaces free of smoke.