Natalie Fee founded Refill when she noticed back in 2015 the many plastic bottles that were washing up on the river banks of her native Bristol. Refill is a a tap water campaign that makes refilling one's own bottle easy and convenient by introducing refill points on every street. Refill has now spread to many countries, including Greece! Niki Helios came across the Refill Deutschland effort on Facebook during the summer of 2017. She contacted them, and the Refill UK team, before launching Refill Greece last November. The idea is simple enough - if you own a bar / restaurant / shop (any entity with opening hours) in an area where tap water is potable, you download the sticker from the Refill website (www.refillgreece.org) or the FREE Refill App available on the iTunes store, print it, and stick it on your store window. This tells passersby that they can enter your store and ask you to refill their water bottle from your tap, for free. The App also allows users to locate nearby Refill Stations. Refill is a great and simple way to do away with plastic water bottles, one of major contributors to the plastic pollution problem afflicting our oceans globally. In Niki's own words:
"Unfortunately since the 1990s, the number of public water fountains all over Greece has decreased and sales of bottled water have increased. This problem is growing, and we are trying through the Refill campaign to raise awareness about plastic pollution generally and plastic water bottles specifically. Many people don't know that plastic water bottles have limited "recyclability" (the toxins in the plastic build up with every recycling, making it unfit to be used to make containers for food/drink, so plastic from the 7% of plastic water bottles that are actually being recycled can only mostly be down cycled). There is a need to educate the general public in Greece about the harms of single-use plastic and we think Refill Greece is a step in the right direction. We are working together with Plastikourgeio in Athens and Plastic Free Drinks on Paros. Currently there are Refill Stations in Athens, Thessaloniki, Paros, Ioannina and Larissa. Our goal is to have a Refill Station on every street. Ofcourse our network of Refill Stations would grow faster if the general public were more aware of the problem that bottled water is spawning."
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!
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.