Plastic waste in the oceans is one of the most discussed topics related to the environment within the last years, and also one of the biggest challenges. As volunteers based in Thessaloniki, we can clearly see a big consumption of this material in our daily life in the second largest city of Greece. Not only by the seaside, which frequently appears to be full of trash and covered as a “green carpet”, but also in shops.
Looking deeper at the numbers and based on the report done by WWF in 2019, Greece wants to implement a new collecting and recycling system to prevent plastic use. However, this project did not take place due to low municipal capacity and rejection from stakeholders.
The city has the initiative to reduce plastic consumption, indeed, with heavy measures such as forbid plastic bags, a measure already in the spotlight by the European Commission.
Currently, in Greece they use a Blue Bin system, that consists of recycling in the same trash materials such as paper, plastic, crystal, aluminum and tin foil, that will later be separated at the sorting facilities.
Conclusions of WWF Report:
The results of the report are alarming, and we will just highlight some related to Greece:
- Coastal activities cause 68% (7.8kT) of plastic inputs into the sea resulting from poor city waste management practices, tourism and recreational activities. Hotspot cities include Thessaloniki, Corfu, and Heraklion.
- The 67% of the plastic pollution inputted into the Mediterranean washes back onto Greek shores within a year. This is due to Greece’s having the longest coastline in the Mediterranean, and currents flowing towards its inlets and coasts. Eventually, 80% of all waste will return to coastlines in the Mediterranean.
- Tourism increases waste by up to 26% in peak season, costing 4-8M in waste management.
Some initiatives to reduce plastic waste
1. There are projects in Greece that are working on reducing the negative impact of this waste, like iSea, which has a program focused on decreasing the waste that humans produce in the sea. Also, they control the quantity of waste that they find under the sea, they do activities to make people aware about the negative consequences of plastic and they cooperate with local agencies to do so.
2. Clean Blue Paros. Paros island committed to becoming the first plastic waste free island in Greece. It joined forces with Common Seas and WWF Greece to implement a series of activities for the reduction of single use plastic consumption and the effective collection of plastic waste.
Tourism was the reason why the island was affected, since the consumption of plastic had increased a lot. The Clean Blue Paros project was prepared to meet the EU requirement to stop consuming single-use plastic. Now it is an example of inspiration for other island communities who want to face a healthier change for the sea.
3. Another interesting project in Greece is Sea Change Islands, which started in 2018 and is being developed on ten Cichlid islands: Serifos, Sikinos, Amorgos, Folegandros, Kimolos, Anafi, Donoussa, Schinoussa, Iraklia and Koufonisia. We highlight many objectives of this association: cleaning the coasts, educating adolescents about environmental problems, partnering with agencies to carry out cultural and sporting events to promote their objectives.
Our proposal to improve the situation and reduce plastic in Thessaloniki
Plastic bottles are too often in our daily lives. As volunteers living in Thessaloniki, we have noticed the large amount of plastic water bottles that we use in a day and in general the plastic that only one use. Every time we go to get a coffee in the city we get a bottle of water for free
As a result of several projects carried out in our organization, we want to offer a more sustainable alternative that, at the same time, is linked to the city of Thessaloniki.
In this case, we have designed a packaging prototype to implement in a recycled cardboard bottle. We chose to put the famous White Tower since it is an emblematic and very famous monument in the city. Therefore, it is easy for the inhabitants of the city to feel an emotional connection with the bottle.
Characteristics and aspects of our proposal:
1) The choice of packaging is 100% of recycled cardboard, and it is closed with a cap made of pine waste, which is harvested responsibly in the Nordic forests.
2) The inspiration to choose the colors has been the blue of the sea and the sky. In this case, lighter blues and darker ones have been mixed to give contrast.
3) The drawing of the White Tower has been essential to recreate the most identifying and famous monument of the city of Thessaloniki. To give more volume and differentiation, we decided to put small blues triangles.
4) Finally, two important concepts have been highlighted at the bottom: on the one hand, the water is 100% pure and that the bottle is also 100% recyclable.