Measurements of persistent litter on 13 beaches in Spain, Italy (Sicily), Turkey, Cyprus and Israel between 1988 and 1989 show that plastic items are the most abundant in the litter composition, followed by wood, metal and glass items. Remnants of fishing gear are rather rare. It appears that the quantity of litter on a beach is inversely related to its geographical distance to a population center and directly related to the number of visitors frequenting it. Seasonal fluctuations in coastal litter are caused by storm waves which wash the litter landward, leaving the beach clean during winter, and by bathers who pollute it during summer. Based on the nature of the garbage, there are indications that most Mediterranean coastal litter is land-based, in contrast to the reported marine-based litter on the western European shores.