Adopt a Beach MED: A Mediterranean initiative to monitor marine litter and combat plastic pollution

Posted on July, 03 2023

Plastics are involved in almost all aspects of daily life and each one of us produces dozens of kilos of plastic waste every year. Waste production increases significantly during the summer months and thousands of plastics end up in the sea, threatening marine life.

In order to address the issue of plastic pollution in the Mediterranean, WWF Greece, WWF Tunisia and WWF Türkiye came together to implement the “Adopt a Beach MED” program: a marine litter monitoring program aiming to minimize plastic and coastal pollution through the collection of qualitative and quantitative data. 

“Adopt a Beach MED” is a citizen science program that has youth at its core. Volunteer groups, schools, other organizations or individual volunteers adopt specific beaches throughout their countries in order to monitor and collect data on marine litter. Each team is trained by WWF staff in the process of monitoring and recording the data. The action is repeated regularly two to four times a year, in order to create time-series data, which are publicly available on the program’s website.

Initially, the “Adopt a Beach” program was launched by WWF Greece in 2021. Now, two more countries are joining the initiative: Türkiye and Tunisia. With the collection of data in these countries on the three continents that surround the Mediterranean, the aim is to develop a Pan-Mediterranean coastline litter monitoring platform and move a step forward in tackling plastic pollution in the Mediterranean region.

The Mediterranean is home to 150 million people and welcomes more than 400 million tourists each year. The Mediterranean Sea is highly polluted, as is evidenced by the pollution levels of its coastline, which are significantly higher than in the Baltic and the North sea, causing injuries or death to aquatic wildlife, while contaminating marine food chains. Without solid scientific data on marine litter, the authorities in Mediterranean countries cannot identify factors that contribute to high plastic pollution levels and cannot adopt adequate policy measures.

The first two years of the program’s implementation in Greece, there was a warm response and mobilization from citizens and groups from all over the country (135 volunteer groups adopted 149 beaches). During these two years, a total of 185,857 pieces of litter (objects larger than 2.5 cm) were recorded by the volunteer groups and retrieved from approximately 14,900  meters of coastline. According to the collected data, the majority of the findings on Greek beaches (about 84%) are plastic (artificial polymeric materials), while over 50% of the total litter recorded consists of just five specific items: cigarette butts, small pieces of plastic (2.5 to 50 cm), plastic straws, plastic bottle caps and small polystyrene pieces (2.5 to 50cm). 

The aim of the "Adopt a Beach MED" program is to raise public awareness of plastic pollution in coastal areas and promote a sense of responsibility and ownership among citizens. By participating in this initiative, youth and volunteer groups across the Mediterranean can actively contribute to reducing plastic waste and protecting our planet's natural resources.

By collaborating and sharing knowledge and resources, this joint initiative between WWF offices in Greece, Tunisia, and Türkiye aims to generate a meaningful impact and build a better future for wildlife and people.

If someone wishes to participate in the program, they may find more information in one of the following websites:

“Adopt a Beach MED” program is being realized with the support of Fondation Audemars-Watkins, through WWF International.

© Κωνσταντίνος Τσουκαλάς / WWF Ελλάς