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.
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?