Experts have issued warnings about the severe threat of plastic pollution in the Turkish Mediterranean, with an average of 229,465 tons of plastic waste added annually, according to Middle East Technical University (METU) Marine Sciences Institute faculty member Professor Ahmet Kıdeyş.

Expressing deep concerns over the escalating pollution levels in the Mediterranean, Professor Kıdeyş compared the situation unfavorably to other seas worldwide, highlighting plastic pollution as a global crisis second only to global warming. The average yearly influx of plastic into the Mediterranean, according to Kıdeyş, stands at a staggering 229,465 tons, with 99% found on the seabed and the remainder scattered across the sea. Egypt, Italy, Türkiye, Algeria, and Albania were identified as significant contributors, with Egypt alone adding 74,031 tons annually, including a substantial 55,000 tons from the Nile River.

The gravity of the crisis is further emphasized by the accumulated plastic on Türkiye’s beaches, measuring 374 kilograms per square kilometer, underscoring the urgency of the situation.

Professor Kıdeyş emphasized the threat posed by microplastics smaller than 10 microns, which enter the food chain, stressing the urgent need for international collaboration. He highlighted ongoing discussions on a global plastic prevention agreement expected to be enforced in 2025 and expressed hope that substantial measures, including reducing single-use plastics, could significantly mitigate the rising tide of plastic pollution in the region.

Professor Sedat Gündoğdu from Çukurova University’s Faculty of Fisheries shed light on the primary factors contributing to pollution in the Turkish Mediterranean. Gündoğdu identified widespread use of single-use plastics in the tourism sector, waste generated by tourist activities in coastal areas, and countries lacking proper waste management infrastructure along the Mediterranean coast as major contributors.

Gündoğdu highlighted that the counterclockwise current in the Mediterranean results in each country polluting the coasts of its neighbors. The northern coasts of Türkiye are currently the most polluted in the Mediterranean, with Gündoğdu attributing this to flow patterns, riverside activities, and insufficient urban treatment infrastructures. Countries within a 1,000-kilometer radius lack developed waste management infrastructure, exacerbating the problem.

Warning of an impending crisis where the seas could transform into a “plastic soup,” Gündoğdu projected a tripling of pollution in the next decade if the current trajectory of plastic production and consumption continues. Stressing the urgency to address the root cause, he advocated for a 40% reduction in plastic production over the next 20 years, emphasizing that merely cleaning plastic from the seas without curbing production is insufficient. Gündoğdu cautioned against technologies like garbage traps, which inadvertently harm marine life, and stressed the need for a comprehensive reduction in plastic production to safeguard the Turkish Mediterranean’s delicate ecosystem.