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More than 2 tons of microplastics pollute Israel’s coast, say researchers

Tel Aviv and Hadera beaches are found to be most polluted out of six tested, likely because they are close to streams, say Tel Aviv University scientists in new study

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Israelis enjoy the beach in Tel Aviv on a hot day, July 9, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Israelis enjoy the beach in Tel Aviv on a hot day, July 9, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

More than two tons of tiny pieces of plastic pollute Israel’s Mediterranean coast, with beaches in Tel Aviv and Hadera the most contaminated out of six surveyed, according to new research.

Researchers from Tel Aviv University collected sand samples from beaches in Ashkelon in the south, Rishon Lezion, Tel Aviv and Hadera in central Israel, and Dor Beach and Haifa in the north.

They then analyzed the sand in a laboratory to identify the kind of plastic waste, known as microplastics.

They found that plastics of terrestrial origin, such as food packaging, were more dominant than those from the sea, such as fishing nets. They also calculated that the Tel Aviv and Hadera beaches were four times more polluted by microplastic than those in Rishon Lezion and Dor, which had the lowest concentrations.

Tel Aviv and Hadera’s beaches are close to streams — the Yarkon and the Alexander, respectively. The researchers suggested that the streams were carrying microplastic particles into the sea, intensifying contamination on the beaches.

The study, carried out in collaboration with the Mediterranean Sea Research Center, was led by Tel Aviv doctoral student Andrey Ethan Rubin and master’s student Limor Omeysi. It was published in the October issue of the scientific journal Marine Pollution Bulletin.

Microplastic waste on a beach. (Tel Aviv University)

“Our research reveals that the Israeli coastline likely contains over two tons of microplastic waste,” said Rubin. “Environmental conditions slowly break this plastic down into even smaller particles. The smaller the plastic particles, the harder it is to remove them from the environment, and the more dangerous they are to the environment and to our health. The microplastic particles that drift into the sea are swallowed by fish, and their remains eventually reach humans.”

Dr. Zucker added that there was insufficient Israeli monitoring of plastic waste and that regulations were needed to limit microplastic pollution.

Correction: This story initially erroneously stated the quantity of microplastics as 2 million tons.

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