The Mediterranean Sea is strongly impacted by marine litter, which is found along its coastlines, floating both on the surface and in the water column down to the sea floor. With record levels of microplastics, it is now one of the seas most affected by plastics pollution. While it contains only one per cent of the world’s waters, the Mediterranean holds seven per cent of all global microplastics, earning it the name ‘the plastics trap’.
Marine litter directly affects living organisms, both in the presence of macroplastics and the ingestion of microplastics, threatening marine species and consequently human health. Thus, Mediterranean plastics pollution represents a serious risk for the local environment and human health and the key economic sectors that rely on marine resources and a healthy sea, such as fishing and tourism.
Developing solutions for a circular blue economy
Against this backdrop, the BlueMed initiative embarked upon its pilot action for a plastic-free, healthy Mediterranean Sea, and in May 2021 launched the BlueMed Hackathon. The Hackathon is a team challenge to develop ideas and solutions to improve marine pollution and promote sustainable blue growth and a circular blue economy in the Mediterranean.
The competition was open to 18-30-year-old MSc and PhD candidates or graduates in the STEM disciplines, designers/creatives and young professionals working in marine sciences, with no restriction on geographical origin. Twenty participants from five countries were split into teams and assigned scientific and technical mentors. They were tasked with identifying innovative solutions to three challenges relating to plastics pollution and presenting their project via a short video pitch.
The winners, who were announced in June 2021, have gone on to receive training in developing a business plan from a pool of experts. They will present their projects to investors at the ECOMONDO exhibition, the most important event in Europe for technological and industrial innovation for the circular economy, in October 2021.
In addition to raising awareness of issues relating to plastics, the initiative has successfully engaged a community of young innovators. These young people put forward solutions to tackle plastics pollution and at the same time promote a sustainable blue and circular economy in the Mediterranean.
BlueMed Pilot action on a Healthy Plastic-free Mediterranean Sea
The BlueMed hackathon winner teams announced