Single use plastics targeted by HELMEPA beach cleanups
Summer is now over and daily swimming, sports and other leisure activities along our country’s numerous beaches are, for most of us, already a distant memory. During our outings to the beach, surely many of us confronted the sad sight of pollution by cigarette tips, plastic and other litter and were concerned about the extent of the problem wondering whether our country’s natural environment deserves such a treatment.
An indicative snapshot of the status of our beaches, before we even visited them this summer, is provided by the data recorded by volunteers of the “Let’s Cleanup Europe” campaign, which was organized and coordinated by HELMEPA, for the 5th consecutive year in Greece, between 4 and 25 May 2018.
A total of 7,750 volunteers from 193 public and private entities organized 187 cleanups of beaches, the seabed, riverbanks and lakes, forests, parks and other natural spaces covering an area of 108 km in length. They collected 16 tons of waste, 4 tons of which were recycled by the Hellenic Recovery-Recycling Corporation that supported actions throughout the country.
The volunteers, youth and adults, recored the litter they collected on data cards provided by HELMEPA. The processing of this data shows that single use plastics continue to feature prominently in the Top 10 list.
|Top 10 litter items in Greece|
|Plastic pieces larger than 2.5 cm||15,855|
|Plastic bottle caps||9,278|
|Styrofoam pieces larger than 2.5 cm||5,520|
|Glass bottles and pieces||4,738|
|Plastic cups and their lids||4,680|
|Paper pieces larger than 2.5 cm||4,649|
Specifically, 151,740 litter items were receorded, from small styrofoam pieces to a whole garbage bin and a mobile spraying machine! The 40,572 cigarette tips still remain at the top of the list and are followed by plastic straws, caps, bottles and bags, which are all associated with coastal recreational activities. It is good to remember that a plastic bottle, which we so easily leave behind, may remain for approximately 450 years in the marine environment before it gradually breaks down to smaller pieces that will enter the food chain and eventually end up on our plates.
Volunteers also collected 3,683 aluminum beverage cans, 3,661 plastic and 2,329 paper food containers and wraps, 2,300 metres of rope and fishing equipment such as 1,009 net pieces, 709 metres of fishing line and 504 styrofoam boxes, smoking-related waste such as 2,147 cigarette/tobacco packs and 876 lighters, 1,680 metal bottle caps, 1,543 baby wipers, nappies and other personal hygiene items, 1,192 pieces of clothing including 12 flip flops and 23 shoes, 1,130 toys and balloons, 1,089 construction materials, 1,568 plastic containers of cleaning agents, oil and cosmetics, 568 batteries of all types, 221 tyres, 80 pieces of car equipment, 231 buckets and barrels, 119 electric appliances, 5 carpets, 3 dinghy boats and many life jackets, 2 tooth-brushes and a hair paint applicator, a wash-basin, a toilet seat and a metal barbeque with a complete set of equipment!
Beach cleanups were carried out by the following 15 HELMEPA Member-companies with their staff and families actively expressing their voluntary commitment to the protection of the marine environment as well as the Corporate Social Responsibility of the Greek maritime community: Allseas Marine S.A., Arcadia Shipmanagement Co. Ltd., Athenian Sea Carriers Ltd., Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement (Hellas) SPLLC, Diana Shipping Services S.A., Dianik Bross Shipping Corporation S.A., Eurobulk Ltd., Genimar Shipping & Trading S.A., Kyla Shipping Enterprises, Minerva Marine Inc., Minoan Lines, Optimum Ship Services Ltd., Administration and Management of Thisvi Biotias Industrial Area SA, Metropolitan College and Environmental Protection Engineering SA.
Worth mentioning is the wide participation of the educational community in this initiative. Schoolchildren and teachers, members of the “HELMEPA Junior” Program, young “HELMEPA Cadets” and other kids from 98 Kindergartens, Elementary and High Schools, volunteered enthusiastically to the actions.
Cleanups were also organized by local authorities, companies and environmental organizations, management bodies of protected areas, cultural societies, seafarers, sailing clubs and citizen groups. Important was the support provided to local actions by Coast Guard Officers of 20 Port Authorities, who following the instructions of the Marine Environment Protection Directorate of the Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy organized and supervised the safe implementation of cleanups.
Underwater, 68 divers carried out 21 cleanups of the seabed at Ag. Theodoroi, Alinda on Leros, Aspropyrgos, Chersonissos in Crete, the wider Corinth region, Heraklion, Koroni, Lake Vouliagmeni-Heraion, Lechaion, Loutraki and Volos, removing a total of 6,247 litter items weighing a total of 4 tons. They found, among other, 1,283 aluminum beverage cans and 405 glass bottles, numerous plastics such as 906 bottles, 598 caps/lids and 412 bags, 222 metres of rope, 110 nets and fishing line, 241 metal pipes and 73 containers, 72 tyres and other car parts, 58 batteries, 45 boat parts, 11 anchors, 6 sunbeds and 5 beach umbrellas, a flood light and a boiler, a garbage bin, a bicycle frame, a toilet flush and a 9-metre hose!
Commemorative Participation Diplomas were awarded to the coordinators of actions, kids and young volunteers.
HELMEPA wishes to thank all participants for sending the message that the solution to the problem lies in our own hands and that we must change habits that harm our planet, such as the overconsumption of single use plastics.
As the protection of the marine environment requires constant effort and vigilance, we invite you to register your participation in the Month of Action for the Marine Environment, which HELMEPA is coordinating from 15 September to 15 October 2018, in the framework of the International Coastal Cleanup campaign, with National Geographic as Strategic Communications Partner.