Thessaloniki is a lively, bustling city.
Its centuries of history created a great crossroad of cultures and identities. Nowadays it is mainly the students of its universities who keep its spark alive, especially when it comes to the nightlife. Unfortunately, all of this comes with a price. A simple walk through the streets of the city centre is enough to realize that Thessaloniki has a big problem. It is, indeed, a very dirty city.
The Greek Crisis and the Environment
According to the European Environment Agency, only 19 per cent of municipal waste was recycled in Greece in 2019. The responsibility for waste management in Thessaloniki belongs to a public company named FODSA. The company struggles to maintain high standards in the city, mainly due to the economic crisis. There are fewer funds for the environmental sector and for any activity to raise awareness on the topic. One of the main consequences is that the Greeks still lack an adequate mindset when it comes to the environment or recycling.
World Environment Day
Since 1974 World Environmental Day is celebrated on the 5th of June every year. It is a day to raise awareness and take an active stand to protect the environment we live in. In 2020 most of the initiatives that generally take place on this occasion have been cancelled, due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Nevertheless, the team of volunteers of Balkan Hotspot decided to celebrate it by collecting garbage in critical points of the city and the seaside. We divided the event between two different days, the first dedicated to the city centre, the second to Perea Beach.
Cleaning the City Center
On the first day, we split up into three teams, focusing on three different parts of the city: Kastra, the Central Railway Station, and the area of the University. The neighbourhood of Kastra, in the upper part of the town, is a particularly affected area. Large groups of young people gather every day to enjoy its spectacular views. The result is piles of garbage, especially around the ancient Byzantine walls and the Castle. The other two areas do not have better luck, being strategic points of the city. Our volunteers armed themselves with gloves and biodegradable bags, willing to make a small difference in their hosting city. Other volunteers from the Social Center Oikopolis came to give a precious help. The number of garbage collected in the different areas was indeed impressive. The three teams finally met in front of the White Tower, the main landmark of Thessaloniki.
Cleaning Perea Beach
The second day we focused on the beach of Perea, approximately 20 kilometres from the centre. The first impression upon arrival is that the beach could be so much better. Instead, garbage of any kind contaminates the sand and the otherwise blue waters. The significant number of beach bars along the seaside does not help, being another source of dirt and waste.
The volunteers found countless plastic straws in the sand. This is probably another consequence of the lack of awareness that still affects the country on environmental topics. Whoever has lived in Greece, even for a short amount of time, knows that plastic is literally everywhere. If any effort they make to avoid its use, it is unfortunately not enough.
Greece has still a long way to go when it comes to the protection of the environment. Each piece of garbage our volunteers collected hides ignorance, and disrespect towards the world we live in. Nevertheless, even if the process is still long, we are confident. Confident that we can make a difference. One plastic straw at a time.