‘THE PLASTIC plate and utensils are a symbol of modernity and the environmental destruction brought about by mankind through uncontrollable dumping and pollution.’.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Mediterranean Sea is choking with plastic waste.
The latest proof was a report this week from the World Wide Fund For Nature (formerly World Wildlife Fund), which found that the Tel Aviv coast is the third-most plastic-polluted shoreline in the Mediterranean, among the nine worst listed.
The report, “Out of the Plastic Trap: Saving the Mediterranean from plastic pollution,” presents a detailed examination of the environmental state of the Mediterranean, and that of the 22 countries that share with it beach space.
There are currently 247 billion pieces of plastic floating in the Mediterranean, and more keep getting added: 570,000 tons of plastic are put into the sea every year, 33,780 plastic bottles every minute, 563 every second.
It’s bad. Plastic today represents 95% of the waste in the Mediterranean and on its beaches, threatening marine life, fishery activities and human health in the region.
Researchers discovered plastic in the stomachs of fish, birds, turtles and whales, and tiny pieces of plastic – microplastics – had also been found in oysters and mussels.
It’s a problem playing out in the water, but the solution lies here on land. The WWF presented a road map of action needed to be taken by institutions, businesses and citizens to stop plastic garbage from reaching the sea – at your country’s beach, and your neighbor’s.
If no action is taken, it warns, or if it’s done too slowly, then the harmful impact on wildlife and fisheries will continue to escalate: Plastic pollution in the region is expected to quadruple by 2050.
The WWF recommends legislation to eliminate any dumping of plastic into the Mediterranean, to set a target for achieving 100% recycled and reusable plastic waste, and to ban outright single-use plastic items such as bags. Yes, chad pa’ami (single-use) is a cultural touchstone in Israel, but it has to go.
The WWF report noted that part of the problem is that recycling is an expensive and energy-intensive process: it costs an average of NIS 3,742 to recycle a ton of plastic, but that same ton of plastic sells for just NIS 2,189 on the market, making recycling unprofitable.
There’s a solution to that – pass legislation that encourages people to sort their trash at home, also known as “separation at source,” which some municipalities in Israel have already implemented. When people separate their trash and use the correct container to dispose of recyclables, it makes it cheaper and more attractive for recycling companies.
The Mediterranean is at risk of becoming a sea of plastic. Israel must do its part to stop it, to take the lead among the 22 Mediterranean countries. There are many reasons, but at the top is the core Jewish value of protecting the environment. When it’s politically expedient, MKs are quick to point out how the Jews were given this one land as their home. Then why isn’t the Knesset doing more to protect it?
There are many answers to that. Politically, it’s not an issue on which ministers can capitalize. They see their shelf life in office as two years, a very short time, so they’re always looking for quick fixes to add accomplishments to their resume.
But environmental initiatives require long-term planning and long-term investment – you can’t produce clean energy overnight. And what MK – and the finance minister specifically – would use his or her resources today to help another minister down the road?
The citizens of the country should reject that thinking and demand instead that the environment be a central issue in the upcoming campaign: to proclaim loudly that Israel should be a world leader on environmental protection.
Every candidate in every campaign forum should be asked: what is your position on saving the Mediterranean, of cleaning up Tel Aviv’s beaches? What can the Knesset do to help sustain a healthy Israeli environment? Will you provide more recycling bins throughout the country, and make them accessible in all neighborhoods?
The irony is that the Knesset prides itself on having the most environmentally-friendly parliament building in the world, which it very well may have. If its building is like that, then the Knesset should legislate that the country should be like that as well.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>