It has been really encouraging to have various like-minded people reach out and talk about their personal efforts to make a difference in their communities. We want to celebrate these stories and hope they will inspire others to act.
This is the story of a few individuals in Leonidio, Peloponnese, who have been working since 2007 to improve the waste management of their community. Through their efforts, working alongside the Municipality of Leonidio, Leonidio now has proper recycling bins, organised beach clean ups by students from the local school and an increased sensitivity amongst residents about the importance of recycling. Citizens who actively participate in their community, lobbying and helping their local politicians, can effect change. Here is how Susan Beer, one of the individuals involved in the Leonidio effort, recalls how their volunteer group began, what they have achieved so far and what they still are working on:
"Back in 2007 the community of Leonidio had a paper/magazine recycling program in the schools. There was also some recycling of plastics on a small scale. Some of us in the community, including two who worked for the municipality, thought we could do more. We got together to brainstorm and see how we could increase our recycling efforts. We met a few times, came up with some action items and got to work.
It was very labour intensive. Three volunteers visited the town's tavernas to ask them to set aside their used plastic bottles for us to collect. We made weekly collection trips to the tavernas. The city allocated a small building as a deposit area and contracted a man to take the collection of plastic bottles to a recycling centre in Tripolis.
After the plastic bottle collection got going, we started a drive to have all the stores flat pack their discarded cardboard boxes and put them in big wire collection bins which were placed in various locations around Leonidio. The funds for the wire bins were collected by the Municipality by asking for donations from the stores. They placed the names of participating shops on the wire boxes.
At that time there was also a "Clean the Beaches Day" managed by the city of Leonidio. The school kids were taken to the beaches, given large sacks and asked to walk up and down the beaches to collect the trash (which was mostly plastic). One of the men from the city would talk to the schoolchildren about the danger of plastic in the ocean, the kids would have a snack and then were bussed back to school. Around the same time, trash bins were set out on all the beaches.
Eventually recycling bins for plastic, glass, aluminium and paper were set around in Leonidio, Poulithra, and Plaka. They are used, but we need more of them and the collection process needs improvement. Trash going into recycling bins needs to be sorted better - we must do more to educate people how to sort their waste. The truck that collects the recycling bins needs to make more frequent collections. The city needs a compacting machine that can handle all the various materials.
Hope our example offers encouragement where it is needed... we have made some good progress here in our communities, but we still have a long way to go!"