Skip to main content

08 June 2018

Tourists cause almost 40% spike in plastic entering the Mediterranean Sea each summer

New report from WWF on World Oceans Day also shows that plastics account for 95% of litter entering the Mediterranean Sea, threatening marine wildlife in the sea and on beaches across the popular holiday destination

Holidaymakers cause a 40 percent surge in marine litter -- 95 percent of it plastic -- entering the Mediterranean Sea each summer, according to a new report from WWF. With over 200 million tourists visiting the holiday hotspot each year, WWF is urging holidaymakers to take steps to minimise their plastic footprint  to protect the Mediterranean and its unique wildlife.

WWF’s report, released to mark World Oceans Day (Friday 8th June), shows that the majority of plastic waste polluting the Mediterranean Sea coming from Turkey and Spain, followed by Italy, Egypt and France - countries where over 34 million Brits are preparing to holiday this year.

Home to almost 25,000 plant and animal species - of which 60 percent are unique to the region - the Mediterranean holds only one percent of the world’s water, but it contains seven percent of all of the world’s microplastic waste. Plastics have also been found in oysters and mussels, while crisp packets and cigarettes have been found in large fish.

Tanya Steele, chief executive at WWF said:

“The Mediterranean is a beautiful holiday destination enjoyed by millions of British people each summer but when we come home with our happy memories, we’re leaving behind a toxic legacy of plastic waste.  The birds, fish, and turtles of the Mediterranean are choking on plastic, but our report also shows plastic is ending up in the fish and seafood we eat on holiday.

“That’s why we’re asking people to think about how they can cut down on the amount of single-use plastic they use and throw away on holiday. By drinking tap water where it’s safe to do so, refusing plastic straws and stirrers or skipping the disposable inflatable pool toy, we can all be part of the solution and not the problem.”

WWF’s report also calculated Europe is the second largest plastics producer in the world, after China, dumping as much as 500,000 tonnes of macroplastics in the sea every year -  that’s the equivalent of 66,000 full rubbish trucks. These large plastic pieces injure, suffocate and often kill marine animals, including endangered sea turtles and monk seals.

And microplastics - tiny plastic fragments, such as those often found in cosmetics -  have reached record levels in the Mediterranean, of almost four times higher than the famous “plastic island” found in the North Pacific Ocean.

The tiny broken down pieces of plastic are eaten by fish and then enter the food chain, until they reach our dinner plates on holiday. On average, someone eating fish in Europe could ingest up to 11,000 pieces of microplastic per year.

This World Oceans Day, WWF is urging governments, businesses and individuals to all adopt a number of actions to reduce plastic waste, especially on holiday. And closer to home, WWF would like to see an end to avoidable single-use plastic in the UK by 2025 including a ban on items such as plastic straws, cutlery and stirrers.

For more information on how to reduce your own plastic waste and join the fight against single-use plastics suffocating our oceans visit



Notes to the editor

  • WWF spokespeople available for interview in the UK and Europe on request
  • WWF images and footage available here
  • WWF’s report “Out of the Plastic Trap: Saving the Mediterranean from plastic pollution” available under embargo on request


WWF’S plastic-free summer tips to help people join the fight for a plastic-free holiday:

Bring your bag for life

A reusable bag won’t take up much space in your luggage, but could save you having to use any plastic bags when shopping for food or buying souvenirs when you’re out exploring.

Think twice about buying that inflatable pool toy

When preparing for the beach or time beside the pool, remember that inflatable flamingos, unicorns and other plastic toys, including sandcastle moulds and spades, are not recyclable. Try to buy good quality items that can be used on future holidays and don’t need to be thrown away after one use.

Freshen up with mints instead of gum

When travelling or after a long flight, freshen up with a packet of mints instead of chewing gum, which is made from plastic and is not degradable so often litters our streets and beaches.

Use washable cloths instead of face wipes

Stay clear of face wipes and wet wipes, which are not able to degrade in the environment as they contain plastic. We are expected to use 3.4 billion wet wipes in the UK alone, with almost a third of these being flushed down the loo and entering our oceans! You could instead use a washable facial cleansing cloth or flannel with a cleanser, to reduce waste.

Buy a ‘spork’

From little plastic spoons used to eat refreshing ice creams on the beach, to plastic cutlery used at a picnic lunch – your impact on the planet could be reduced simply by carrying a ‘spork’ (spoon/fork hybrid) or reusable cutlery.

BYO (bring your own) water bottle

As a nation we buy 38.5 million plastic bottles every day – and, shockingly, only around half of these are recycled; the rest go to landfill or end up as litter. In countries where the tap water is safe to drink, bringing your own reusable water bottle or asking for tap water at restaurants is a win win – saving money whilst reducing your holiday plastic waste. If you are unsure whether the tap water is safe to drink in the area you are visiting, make sure to dispose of any bottles appropriately.

Enjoy a plastic-free cocktail

When choosing what cocktail to have during your holiday, remember to say no to plastic straws and stirrers. These items are constantly found on beaches, in the stomachs of seabirds and marine mammals, and also break down further to become harmful micro plastics, which pollute our oceans.

Leave only your footsteps

Make sure to leave the beaches, campsites and hilltops you visit, the way you found them. You could do even better than this by taking more rubbish away with you than you produced. For instance, take time to do a 10 minute clean-up when you leave the beach for the day.

If renting a property – check out the local recycling

Make sure to research where the nearest bottle bank and recycling bins are in the area you are staying. This could help to reduce your impact from plastic waste whilst you are on holiday.

Bring your own coffee cup

Bring your reusable cup with you for morning coffees, afternoon pick-me-ups and night time drinks. Some UK events, festivals and many coffee shops will also give you discounts on hot drinks for bringing your own cup. Plus, they are great to bring with you for long car journeys.

Explore the local food markets

Make a point of visiting food markets when you’re abroad, where you can sample fresh produce, learn more about the local food culture and pick up delicious ingredients that you can use to cook in your holiday accommodation. Whilst it’s great to eat out on holiday, it can make a refreshing change to try cooking some local cuisine yourself.

About WWF

WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organisations, with over five million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Visit for latest news and media resources and follow us on Twitter @wwf_uk.