When we launched our Plastic Free Greece initiative, Hara Stavrianopoulou, a civil engineer, was one of the first to say she wanted to organise a screening of A PLASTIC OCEAN at a community centre in Kalamata. To introduce the film and how relevant the topic is to their sea-side city, she and the other volunteers who helped organise the event, showed pictures of plastic that had washed up on Kalamata beach and they placed pieces of plastic trash on the seats to welcome every person in the audience. The discussion following the screening was enriched by Yana Volkova, a Ukrainian architect-activist who runs a "Trash Art" class at the centre, transforming trash into art, and Yann Louault, a French national who works in biotechnology and has studied marine plastic pollution. The other volunteers who helped organise the event are Fotini Arapi, Sophia Kostea, Evi Chronopoulou, Sophia Konstantinea and Giannis Petropoulos.
The audience, which included some teachers of local schools, resolved to organise more screenings at schools in the Kalamata area and to organise simultaneous beach cleanups to coincide with Aegean Rebreath's underwater cleanup of Kalamata Bay on December 2-3. If you are in Kalamata on those days, please join them!
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!
The first screening of A PLASTIC OCEAN (with Greek subtitles) took place this week in Volos. 50 students aged 9 - 15 watched the 22 minute documentary with great interest. The educator and organiser of the event, Eleni Sofogianni, describes the reaction of her students and the actions they are planning to take given what they learned:
"We [the teachers] watched the documentary a few times before deciding how to introduce the topic to our students. We decided to show them pictures of animals trapped in plastic garbage. I couldn't have imagined how angry the children would become when they saw these images. We spoke about plastic garbage using the facts from the activity book you sent us. Finally, they watched the documentary. All the students, regardless of age group, were engaged throughout the screening.
We won't stop here. This is just the beginning. We decided to recycle all plastic waste at our school. We decided that this coming Saturday, November 11, will be a zero-plastic waste day and we will repeat it as often as possible. We will make posters and put them up around our school to remind us of everything we learned this week."
If you are asking yourself, how does so much plastic enter the sea, look at these pictures: litter by the side of streets, off the side of cliffs, they are a SHAMEFUL testaments to our collective disregard for our country, our seas, our planet, and our very own children. If not collected, this plastic trash will make its way to the sea, where, as it breaks down over the next 500 years, marine organisms will eat it, many of which will die, our tourism industry will suffer, and some of this plastic will eventually make its way back onto your and your children's dinner plate....so what can you do?
We will make suggestions occasionally for items that can be useful to replace plastic - because you do need to store things in your pantry, you do need a garbage bag, you do need to pack a lunch for your child, you may want to continue to drink your coffee with a straw. Wherever possible we suggest switching to glass or stainless steel containers. They are reusable and they do not leak chemicals into your food / drink. Please note, we do not receive, nor wish to receive, any funding to advertise / endorse these items, we simply list them as suggestions to help you reduce waste in your daily life. Please do give us your recommendations if you come across products available for sale in Greece that can contribute toward a "zero-waste" lifestyle. We thank Ethos & Empathy, a zero-waste vegan community in Greece, for suggesting these two Greek online shops that can solve a lot of your home and business needs: SKG Eco Shop (which sells products of Naturesse and Vegware and is mostly catering to businesses not individuals) and Sapontina.
Glass or stainless steel containers for drink are the best for you and for the environment.
We launched the Plastic Free Greece initiative only 1 week ago, and we are already 1000 strong on our Facebook page. This support and all the comments show that we DO care.
It IS depressing what we have done to our planet, and there are no quick fixes. Governments have the obligation to protect the environment - the convenience plastic offers to citizens and businesses alike needs to be regulated and waste needs to be managed appropriately. We do need to lobby our politicians for this. But we cannot just get depressed, or sit around and wait for solutions. We are swimming in plastic, and since it has penetrated our food chain, we are eating and drinking micro plastic particles.
Confucius, the great Chinese philosopher, explained it best. A virtuous society doesn't just exist. It spirals out from each individual. First consider your own actions, then those of your family, of your community, and slowly slowly your circle of care widens to include society in its entirety.
The solution starts with each and every one of us. It's time to set the example in our own lives and get others to act as well. Change your buying patterns, say no to the single use plastic bag / straw / cutlery / plate / balloon (?! who needs those?!), to excessively packaged vegetables and toys. Make the effort to carry an extra multi-use bag around with you in your purse / car for that shopping. Tell others why you are doing what you are doing:
4.3 BILLION PLASTIC BAGS WERE CONSUMED IN GREECE IN 2016.