Science

Current tourism model largely responsible for marine litter: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on February 09, 2021

A worker operates a cleaning beach machine as he cleans the beach from the plastic waste which was brought in by the strong waves during the northwest monsoon season on February 2, in Kedonganan Beach, Bali, Indonesia   -  Getty Images

The study carried out by the researchers from the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB), recommended utilizing coronavirus pandemic to right all the wrongs by keeping forth a new sustainable model for tourism

A new study has revealed that the current tourism model is largely responsible for all the marine litter.

The study carried out by the researchers from the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (ICTA-UAB), recommended utilizing coronavirus pandemic to right all the wrongs by keeping forth a new sustainable model for tourism.

The research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed that the recreational use of Mediterranean island beaches during the summer is responsible for up to 80 per cent of the marine litter. These include litter accumulated around beaches that generate huge amounts of microplastics through the fragmentation of larger plastic items.

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The international study led by ICTA-UAB researchers has analysed the effects of waste generated by tourism on eight Mediterranean islands over the past four years.

Marine litter, including microplastics, can be defined as any persistent, manufactured, or processed solid material discarded, disposed of, or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment.

Dr. Michaël Grelaud, ICTA-UAB researcher and author of the article, said: “This environmental issue is threatening the good health of marine ecosystems and can lead to the loss of biodiversity.”

He added: “It can have as well huge economic impacts for coastal communities that depend on ecosystem services by increasing expenditure on beach cleaning, public health or waste disposal.”

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The Mediterranean region welcomes about one-third of the world’s tourism every year and is particularly affected by environmental pollution related to this sector.

Methodology

For the study, the researchers characterised the amount and type of waste during 147 marine litter surveys conducted during both the low and high tourist season of 2017, on 24 beaches from 8 different Mediterranean islands.

The results show that the vast majority of the items collected are made of plastic, as they represent more than 94 per cent of the marine litter.

The number of items most likely left on beaches by the visitors, including cigarette butts, straws, or drink cans, represent over 65 per cent of the amount of marine litter. This can increase up to 80 per cent if the large microplastics are included as suggested by the results.

Published on February 09, 2021

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