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International Coastal Cleanup 2018: single-use plastics on Greek beaches

16 Jan 2019

Approximately 4,082 volunteers participated in 124 coastal and 12 underwater cleanups during an “Action Month for the Marine Environment”, which was coordinated in Greece by HELMEPA between 15 September and 15 October 2018. This initiative was part of the 2018 International Coastal Cleanup campaign, the world’s oldest and largest volunteer effort of its kind coordinated globally by the Ocean Conservancy with an annual participation of over 700,000 volunteers in 100 countries around the world.

In Greece, with the motto “Hunting for the lost plastic” and the support of National Geographic–FOX Networks Group Greece as a Strategic Communications’ Partner, youth and adults cleaned up 75 km of shoreline, collecting and recording on data cards 5 tons of litter, of which 880 kg was recycled in collaboration with the Hellenic Recycling-Recovery Corporation (He.R.R.Co.).

The recording of collected litter by volunteers is valuable as it provides a screenshot of the environmental state of Greek coasts following the visit of millions of Greeks and foreigner holidaymakers during the past summer.

In total, volunteers collected 121,959 litter items, from the tiniest pieces of broken plastic to whole metal barbecue!

Top 10 marine litter items in Greece



   Cigarette filters 31,524
   Plastic bottle caps 12,049
   Plastic pieces 12,016
   Plastic straws 11,354
   Foam pieces 5,887
   Plastic bottles 5,810
   Plastic cups and cup lids 5,239
   Plastic bags 3,636
   Paper pieces more than 2,5 cm 3,572
Glass bottles, including broken pieces 2,822

Even though cigarette filters continue to be the No1 litter item encountered along the coastline of Greece in 2018, single-use plastics such as bottles and caps, cups, straws and bags, which are associated with recreational activities in the coastal zone, once again prevail among the Top 10 litter items. Indicatively, these specific plastics accounted for 32% of the total waste collected during this year’s campaign, ie approximately 1 in 3 litter items, while a decade ago, in 2008, it accounted for a mere 13% of all waste.

This significant increase of marine pollution from single-use plastics is not only a Greek phenomenon, but a global trend associated with the rapid increase in production and use of these items throughout the world. This is the main reason for which international organizations such as the European Commission, governments and metropolitan cities are imposing mandatory measures to reduce single-use plastics thus contributing to pollution prevention.

In addition, volunteers also found and collected along the coast 2,590 aluminum beverage cans and 1,390 metal bottle caps, 2,152 plastic and 1,369 paper food wrappers, 1,743 cigarette/tobacco packs, 1,452 pieces of rope/string, 1.150 items of pallet/wood, 1,111 lighters, 1,036 items of personal hygiene, 1.035 of foam containers for fish, 573 pieces of fishing nets and 504 pieces of fishing line, 803  clothing items, 24 flip flops and 12  pairs of shoes, 761 items of construction materials, 591 toys, 438 metal tins, 428 cleanser/oil bottles and containers,  153 elastic tyres, 223 household batteries and 5 car batteries, 115 buoys, 45 electrical appliances, 6 plastic chairs and a metal table, 4 supermarket metal trolleys, 3 sun lounges and 4 beach umbrellas, 2 wallets containing 18 coins, 3 baby’s dummies, a baking pan, a whole metal barbeque and 2 grills.

Participants included kids and youth, members of the “HELMEPA Junior” and “Cadets” programs respectively as well as other students and teachers, local authorities and Coast Guard officers, members of environmental organizations and sailing clubs, divers and individuals. HELMEPA awarded 1,453 commemorative Participation Diplomas to coordinators, kids and youth in recognition of their voluntary effort. Additionally, the following companies-Members of HELMEPA organized and carried out voluntary beach cleanups with the participation of their staff and families:

  • Danaos Shipping Co. Ltd
  • DNV GL
  • Ionia Management S.A.
  • LAMDA Flisvos Marina A.
  • Polembros Shipping
  • Tsakos Columbia Shipmanagement (TMC) A.

The actions of the International Coastal Cleanup were projected by national and international media thus contributing to the wider awareness raising of local communities on the need to prevent marine litter pollution. HELMEPA wholeheartedly thanks National Geographic – FOX Networks Group Greece and the other media for their support to the campaign and congratulates all entities and volunteers because their participation in such initiatives provides a prime example of responsible conduct towards our country’s coastal and marine environment, for others to follow.

For further information:
HELMEPA’s Environmental Awareness Sector
Tel. (+30) 210-9343088, email

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News International Coastal Cleanup 2018: single-use plastics on Greek beaches