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In 2017, as part of the BLUEISLANDS project activities, 147 marine litter surveys were conducted on 24 beaches of 8 islands of the Mediterranean Sea. The results have shown that, on average, the accumulation rate of marine litter was of 0.08 items/m2/day during the low season and of 0.25 item/m2/day during the high season. This represents an average increase of +205% of marine litter during the high season. Depending on the type of beach considered, this increase goes from +309% for the touristic beaches, to +327% for the beaches mainly used by locals and to 68% for the remote beaches. These results clearly show the seasonal variations of the “visible” marine litter (plastic bottles, cigarette butts or even small pieces of plastic of less than 5mm).
In order to also analyse the presence of microplastics, sand samples were collected during the marine litter survey for further analysis at ICTA-UAB (Barcelona, Spain). For each beach, four campaigns of sampling (two during the low season and two during the high season) were implemented. For each campaign, five samples of one litter of sand were collected. The results obtained from the 1st campaign (low season) for the three types of beach of six islands showed that, despite differences between beaches and islands, all the samples analysed were contaminated with microplastics (fibres, microbeads, foams...). The lowest concentrations were found in Cyprus and the highest in Malta. Ongoing analysis will reveal if the concentrations significantly change during the high touristic season. Moreover, the impact of the characteristics of the sand (grain size, presence of seashell debris, etc.) on its capacity to retain the microplastics will be tested.

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