The Blue Green Blog

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A new island has emerged from the waters of the Mediterranean, and a new mountain is growing in New Delhi, India. An island made of rubbish, and more specifically, mainly plastics.

Around the world, we consume over 5 trillion plastic bags and 500 billion plastic plates and cups every year, as well as 500 million plastic straws every day. According to National Geographic, there are 5 trillion pieces of plastic in our seas. These figures correspond to 350 million tons of plastic, and half of these are disposable plastic.

As plastic is a material that is not biodegradable (only 7% of plastics arerecycled and 12% are burned) it tends to accumulate everywhere,with 90% of plastic waste ending up in rivers.

The ‘island’ of rubbish and plastic is situated on the coast of Tuscany, between the islands of Elba and Corsica. The island, which is tens of kilometreswide, consists of plastic cups, straws, bottles, shoes and clothes, most of which have been shrunk to pieces no larger than 2 millimetres.

Unlike the similar Garbage patch in the Pacific, which collects 80,000 tonnes of plastics and rubbish – a size equal to three times the size of France - the rubbish island in the Mediterranean is not stable. It is not always visible, as it is an unstable, temporal phenomenon that reappears cyclically.

It all depends on the currents and the winds between Corsica and Elba. It usually appears after heavy rain, when the currents from the northwest move towards the Italian coast, bringing with them the litter from the rivers. Once the rubbish reaches Elba it cannot move away, as the southern tip of Corsica creates a static zone.