Each year, the European Environment Agency (EEA) publishes the European bathing water quality report. In 2016, water of Lake Leman, as well as 85% of bathing areas in Europe, is considered as “excellent” which is the highest grade granted. In fact water quality has increased in rivers and lakes in Switzerland in the last decades, resulting in clear water in most of the cities and bathing areas.
However, plastic is a growing issue around the world because of their low deterioration rate. Surface waters in are also concerned as demonstrated by a recent study from the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN). The presence of microplastics in surface waters is largely unknown, and the aim of the study was to target the largest lakes in Swizerland and around the Alps to search for their presence. Those small plastics (< 5mm) formed by fragments, pellets, cosmetic beads, lines, fibres, films or foams are often derived from the fragmentation of larger plastics. The study found that the microplastics were identified in almost every sand beach as well as in the stomach of the birds and the fishes.
More recently, the “Association pour la sauvegarde du Leman” published a report in collaboration with the EPFL, on the quantity of waste found in the Leman, forming 50 tons/year. A significant part of the waste is identified as plastics of which more than 50% are originating from the dust formed by tyre wear. Plastic packaging left in the nature is estimated at a quantity of around 10 tons/year. As they are persistent, they may accumulate in the sediment, and the wildlife which can cause issues in the future.
The plastic pollution is concerning every part of the globe, and it is important to be aware of that to try to change everyday habits. Be sure to put your waste in dedicated containers, and adapt your consumption habits to try to preserve the beautiful environment around the lakes.