From the beginning of this summer, plastic plates, cups, utensils and other packaging was made illegal on the Isole Tremiti, a chain of islands off Italy’s eastern coast.
Alarming levels of plastic
Alarming levels of plastic particles in the waters surrounding the archipelago were measured recently which is what inspired the new law. These islands lie within a protected marine reserve off the coast of Puglia.
Local mayor steps up
Antonio Fentini, the local mayor, proposed a solution of imposing fines of up to €500 on anyone (businesses or individuals) caught using plastic cups, plates or utensils on any of the archipelago’s three islands. People have been encouraged to change to using reusable or biodegradable picnicware.
Are plastic bottles next?
Fentini has not yet banned plastic bottles but would like to see them replaced with glass. In addition, he also hopes to outlaw polystyrene containers. These containers are actually commonly used by local fisherman to transport their catch and which often end up in the sea.
Greenpeace recently concluded an investigation which measured high concentrations of microplastics in the waters around the Tremiti islands, despite their protected status. 2.2 pieces of plastic per cubic meter of water were found. Most of this is polyethylene, the common plastic used to make bags, bottles and other packaging. To compare, in 19 different sites around Italy the microplastic measured was 0.52 items/m3.
Tremiti only has 500 inhabitants but many thousands more seasonal visitors. It’s not to say that these are the people who are producing more plastic waste. Ocean currents often sweep plastic particles towards islands which results in patches of accumulated pollution. So, the people of the Tremiti islands can’t protect their crystal waters alone, they need global assistance.
Ban on plastic bags
In 2011, Italy introduced a nationwide ban on plastic shopping bags. It was one of the first European countries to do so. Additionally, since the beginning of this year, the ultra-thin plastic bags used for produce also have to be replaced by biodegradable versions.
90% of garbage in the sea is plastic
Sadly, studies suggest that more than 90% of the garbage floating in the Mediterranean or laying on its deep-sea floor is plastic. There is an especially high concentration of microplastics in the Mediterranean. Here, microplastics have been measured at 1.2 million per square kilometre, one of the highest rates in the world.