ANDROS, Greece – More evidence of how plastic has polluted the seas, divers near the island of Andros said they found a coral of plastic bags on the bottom of the Aegean where a landfill had crumbled into the waters, creating an eerie scene of waste.
Thousands of the bags were pulled up by a team of divers and environmentalists, said the news agency Reuters in a report on what they found, showing the extent of plastics getting into the seas around Greece and the world.
“It was a very scary thing to see,” said Arabella Ross, a volunteer diver with Aegean Rebreath, a group founded in 2017 to carry out underwater and coastal clean-ups. “It really shook me and I think it really shook everyone who saw it,” she told the news agency.
The Mediterranean is among the seas with the highest levels of plastic pollution in the world, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said in a report in June and Greece produces about 700,000 tones of plastic waste a year, or about 68 kilos (149.9 pounds) per person.
Some 11,500 tons of that end up in the seas, and about 70 percent washes back up onto beaches, a precious tourist source for Greece that is now being threatened as there is no effective ban on the use of plastic bags, bottles or containers in the country apart from half-hearted laws.
In July, 18 months into the introduction of reforms to reduce the volume of plastic bags used in Greece, environmental groups said the use was going up because some supermarkets weren’t abiding by a law banning them from giving out free thin plastic bags instead of thicker ones for which customers have to pay.
The measures introduced on Jan. 1, 2018 prohibited supermarkets and other retailers from supplying the thin free bags but the Marine Environment Cooperation Network and the A.C. Laskaridis Charitable Foundation said the money collected from selling thicker bags is being kept The net result, based on environment ministry figures and a study conducted by the Research Institute of Retail Consumer Goods (IELKA), is that consumers have effectively traded a habit of ‘thin’ bags for thick bags, without any real reduction in the number of bags or the use of plastic.
The sea pollution off Andros is thought to date back to 2011, when heavy rain caused an informal waste disposal site to collapse, with most of the materials tumbling into the sea, said the news report that added the divers found plastic bags tangled between reefs, swaying among fish.
It was “like the paradise of the Caribbean Sea, where you find coral reefs everywhere of every color. It was the exact same thing, but instead of corals it was bags,” Ross said, adding that they weren’t able to take up much.
“If people are wondering where their rubbish ends up, we see it each time we go into the water,” Ross said.