We are inspired with the efforts of Kristin and Marios Bac. Since the beginning of this year they have organised 4 massive beach clean ups in the Epanomi area and intend to continue to organise one every two to three weeks:
The Bacs own a travel agency in Germany called Five Senses Travel, and live in Thessaloniki. They are in love with their product - the natural beauty of Greece, and they want to protect it. They have created a new Facebook page called Five Senses Beachcleaner and encourage as many people as possible to come to their beach cleans. This is how they came across Plastic Free Greece and they reached out to us to help them spread the word on our social media pages, which we did with great pleasure.
They ask for all who show up to their beach cleans to wear gloves and bring trash pickers. They have a friend who has a recycling company who helps them after the beach clean ups to collect the garbage. Once he collects the garbage with his big truck, the garbage is taken to his facility to be separated and what can be recycled is, the rest is put in normal garbage bins to be sent to landfill.
We asked Kristin what it is they typically find washed up on beaches and here is what she said: "It is unbelievable, we find everything. Closed cans of beer, closed water bottles, drinking straws, bottle caps, styrofoam boxes, shoes, nets, fishing gear, umbrellas, clothes, furniture, garbage containers, innumerable plastic bags, car tires, bathtubs, broken and old boats, many empty plastic bottles. Worst of all are the dead animals we find. Last one was a dead sea turtle."
Their next beach clean will be on March 10th. If you live in the Thessaloniki area, we hope you will join them!
We need to start caring for our environment at an early age. Everything boils down to education. Ms. Elena Anastasiou, a kindergarten teacher in the sea-side town of Katakolo, Helia, knows this and showed "A Plastic Ocean" to her young students, organised for them to do a beach clean, and made a little video clip afterwards summarising everything they had learned.
If only everyone had such a teacher in their lives! THANK YOU!
Alexandra Logotheti, sent us pictures of the massive beach clean on Agkisitri that she and a group of friends organised last week. Agkistri is a small island off the coast of Athens, very close to Aegina. She announced she was going to be doing a beach clean on her Facebook page and was happily surprised to see that many chose to join her. It is shocking to see the amount of plastic trash that is strewn on the beach they love. Some of the trash has most definitely washed up from the sea, other trash has sadly been thrown there, in complete disregard for their island, by locals. All in all the group collected 50 large bags of trash. What makes these pictures even more poignant, is the beauty of the background - turquoise waters and pine trees that grow right up to the beach. We need to love our Greece more. This group is showing us just how to do it. THANK YOU!
ZaCLEANthos consists of a small group of volunteers on Zakinthos Island who clean up areas of the island that are littered, such as roads, beaches and olive groves. We got in contact with the group's founders, Vendula Vasickova and Liz Kokkinis. Here is what they said:
"Garbage collection and litter has been a huge problem in Zakynthos for years, last winter it hit its peak as bins were not emptied for over 6 months, rotten garbage overflowed the streets, beaches were strewn with carrier bags and plastic and the olive groves collected all the litter that was blown away by strong storms and flood water. Garbage collection started again over the summer period while the tourists were here but has now stopped again, we have piles of growing garbage again littering our streets.
Some locals have started to recycle, you can’t drink the tap water here in Zakynthos so the waste produced through water bottles alone is huge, but not enough people are recycling, if you look at the rubbish piles on the sides of the road you can see much more could be recycled. Unfortunately most people here don’t care, they throw rubbish out of car windows, leave litter on the beaches and throw unwanted household appliances wherever they can.
The ZaCLEANthos was formed less than 4 months ago but in that time we have organised 6 clean ups, collected over 50 bags of garbage and 25 bags of recycling. People are interested in what we do and our members are growing. We hope to set an example to others, encourage people to think about their actions and keep their neighbourhood clean."
At the top of our Christmas wishlist, and second only to our wish that the Greek government outright bans single use plastic, is for citizens to take personal responsibility for trash. You will say angrily, but it is the municipality's job to do this! To this we respond:
1) YES IT IS! DEMAND that your municipality does its job well. VOTE, LOBBY, BE PART OF THE SOLUTION. Complaining with no action will get you nothing. Don't just complain on Facebook or at your local cafe to your friends, take your complaints to your municipality and to your politicians.
2) PICK IT UP. The very act of picking up trash you may happen to come across as you walk on a beach or in a park shows your DEFIANCE of the status quo. You are better and you want to be part of a society that is better. If everyone did this, our society WOULD be better.
3) IT IS A WAY OF LIFE. A "clean up" does not necessarily have to consist of 100 people who have organised for days to meet at a specific place, nor is it just something you do a single day a year. It is an attitude. It is the feeling that you are part of a bigger whole and it is ok to bend down and pick up someone else's trash. It is not beneath your dignity, indeed it makes you, and the society you are part of, better.
Take a look at what this woman on Kos does on many days when she walks her dogs on the beach. She is one of many Nameless Plastic Heroes of Greece and we thank her!!!
We always come across amazing efforts! The Loutraki Dive Club (follow them on Facebook) is a volunteer group with a mission to protect of aquatic ecosystems and marine animals while increasing interest in aquatic tourism and scuba diving along Greek costal areas.
Nikos Baourakis, the President of the Club says: "The members of the group have systematically initiated sea floor cleaning and shore cleaning activities since August 2013 and to date we have recorded 120 clean up efforts, 870 member participations. Loutraki Dive Club has collected over 30064 kg or 28341 pieces of human pollution from the sea floor in total! Our initiative is to continue with our efforts and to intensify over time with more participation from both local and official organizations with a ecological, green agenda. Creating awareness to the issues of marine pollution so as to have more people sensitized to the magnitude of the problem that faces our oceans today. Positive impacts can result from greater awareness and appreciation of the natural world and our goal is to leave behind a cleaner marine ecosystem for future generations. Through the promotion of our actions, we aim to sensitize as many of our fellow citizens as possible so that they may also participate alongside us or organize their own clean up of coastal areas, seashores, streams etc. With this determined effort, we are hopeful for a better tomorrow for us, our children and all of humanity."
One amazing teacher, Mr. Kostas Sigoulakis, showed A PLASTIC OCEAN to all THREE of the schools he teaches at in Mani (Gytheio, Areopoli and Krokees). A total of 8 classes ranging from 6th grade through to 12th grade saw the documentary.
The screenings were followed by long discussions about plastic pollution - every age group showed to be highly concerned. We, at Plastic Free Greece, urge that all screenings are followed by an activity that helps to reduce plastic pollution, and we make suggestions such as the adoption of a zero-waste day, a conscious re-evaluation of one's habits, an appeal to local bars / restaurants to reduce plastic waste, etc. In this particular case, the students decided to organise a series of beach clean ups on Sunday mornings. The first beach clean up took place this past Sunday, December 3rd, on Gytheio Beach. The beach unfortunately looked like many untended beaches do all over Greece - lots of washed up plastic bottles, plastic lids, plastic bags, a few glass bottles.
THANK YOU for so enthusiastically embracing this cause and making all your students feel part of the solution. Cleaning up beaches is one definite way to reduce plastic waste from entering our oceans and leading by example is the best way to transmit this message to the broader community.
A group of school girls in Galaxidi meets after school on a weekly basis to learn how to sew under the guidance of Ms. Manoloudi and Ms. Stone, two community leaders of the town. But this is no simple sewing class, it has a purpose! They call it the "We Save our Seas" project. The girls make canvas tote bags and they hand them out for free to people in the village to replace single use plastic bags! Each bag is first painted and then sewn together - the bags are veritable works of art!
These are the new Plastic Warriors! We are so proud of them!
Here is an unfortunate example of a good product (organic fruits and vegetables) sold in excessive plastic packaging on Greek supermarket shelves. Organic produce in Greece needs to be either (1) packaged to be "protected" from the toxic chemicals of non-organic produce all the way from the producer through to the supermarket shelf or (2) all points along the sales channel need to be certified organic...the result is that you end up selling organic bananas in plastic bags, organic pears / apples / avocados on styrofoam trays, wrapped in plastic, and pineapples / oranges in plastic nets (which offer dubious protection). How is this possibly good? All these fruits and vegetables already come in their very own packaging - a 100% biodegradable peel. Perhaps the law and definitely the choice of packaging material need to be revisited.
We recommend you DO NOT BUY ORGANIC PRODUCTS (AND DEFINITELY DO NOT BUY NON-ORGANIC PRODUCTS) THAT ARE WRAPPED IN THIS MANNER and prefer to buy them from organic shops (where organic produce is sold without packaging) or at an organic open air market, or laiki, (as long as you bring your own basket / tote bag and don't accept the plastic bags that vendors hand out there). Tell your local supermarket why you are not shopping organic produce from them so they can lobby the government to rethink this wasteful law and lobby producers to rethink their packaging (for example, replace the plastic with recycled cardboard boxes or compostable packaging solutions). We are following activist Anita Horan, who started her #PlasticFreeProduce campaign in Australia with great success and we look forward to do the same in Greece.
Daphne Marneli and her husband Fran Vargas were vacationing on Serifos island two summers ago when they were told that they could not drink the tap water. They started to buy bottled water. At the end of their holiday, they balked at the sheer volume of plastic water bottles they had gone through.
When they got back to their home in Athens they were determined to do something about plastic garbage. They came across Dave Hakkens and his initiative called Precious Plastic. Dave Hakkens shows how easy it is to set up your own plastic recycling unit with very basic machinery. It is then just a matter of collecting plastic garbage, shredding it, and molding it into new objects or plastic thread which can be used for 3D printers.
Daphne and Fran decided to set up their own plastic recycling plant in their neighbourhood in Athens. "Plastikourgeio" was born earlier in 2017 - one side of their space is a shop which sells sustainable / zero-waste products such as stainless steel straws and soaps sold in bulk. The other side of Plastikourgeio's space is a lab dedicated to recycling plastic. Plastic that they collect from their neighbourhood, or plastic that customers bring into the lab, is shredded and made into new objects. Daphne says, "Our mission is to show how plastic CAN be recycled but to also stress the point that although the recycling process can be very creative, it requires a lot effort so our over arching goal as a society should be to reduce the use and production of plastic. Recycling is our last best option."
Daphne and Fran have also started a campaign directed at Athenian bars and restaurants against single-use plastic called Plastic Free Drinks: www.plasticfreedrinks.plastikourgeio.com.
Go and visit Plastigourgeio on Asklipiou 51, 10680 Athens, +30 2130 443356. Their website is plastikourgeio.com and you can follow them on Instagram @plastikourgeio. Collect your plastic trash and go transform it into something beautiful and useful!
Or if you are not based in Athens, consider setting up your own Precious Plastic Lab where you are!