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Voluntary Beach Cleanups

In 1983, HELMEPA began a concerted summer awareness campaign starring the association’s “Seagull”, taking place every year since then, with the aim to spread the message for Clean Seas and Beaches to the general public. In this context, for the first time in Greece scouts and schoolchildren participated in voluntary beach cleanups, primarily in the region of Attica.

Since then, beach cleanups have been established as a key information and awareness tool for the prevention of marine litter pollution. Moreover, the adoption and cleanup of a beach constitutes the most popular activity of the “HELMEPA Junior” environmental education program, which since 1993 is offered to schoolchildren, 5-13 years old, in kindergartens and primary schools throughout Greece.

The association’s Environmental Awareness Section coordinates in Greece two international voluntary initiatives: the International Coastal Clean-up Day and the European Clean-Up Day taking place in September and May respectively. As the national coordinator of these activities in Greece, HELMEPA invites its member-companies, local authorities and concerned citizens across the country, to contribute to this initiative by devoting a few hours to cleanup a nearby beach, a section of the seabed, a river bank or lake, a forest area or park.

To facilitate the activities of the participants, HELMEPA provides them with supporting material (cleanup organization instructions, posters) and the special Trash Data Form, which should be completed and sent back. Moreover, HELMEPA contributes to the promotion of such voluntary activities throughout Greece and abroad. The processing of the recorded information results in useful scientific data pertaining to quantities, composition and origin of waste, which are made public in order to raise awareness for pollution prevention.

By enriching the database that HELMEPA has established, the association is monitoring the trend of marine debris pollution in Greece and cooperates with national and international bodies (United Nations Environment Programme – UNEP/MAP, European Environment Agency, Ocean Conservancy, Algalita, etc.) on combating this problem in a more efficient way.


The “Action Month for the Marine Environment” for 2018 was organized and coordinated in Greece by HELMEPA between 15 September and 15 October. In total, 124 costal and 12 underwater cleanups were organized with the participation of 4,082 volunteers. 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!

Type  items
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.


Let's Save the Seas
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8 April 2020
Maritime Training Center for Pollution Prevention, Safety at Sea and Environmental Awareness