International coastal clean-up campaign 2016: Results in Greece

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ag-marina-attikisA total of 4,560 volunteers participated in the ‘Month of Voluntary Action for the Marine Environment’, which was coordinated by HELMEPA from 17th September to 17th October in Greece in the framework of ICC 2016.

Volunteers organised and carried out 89 beach and 16 underwater clean-ups throughout Greece. And under the motto “We clean our beaches, record and recycle marine litter!”, children and youth, members of the HELMEPA Junior and Cadets programmes respectively, as well as other students and teachers, staff of HELMEPA members and other companies, municipal and port authorities, members of environmental organisations and sailing clubs, divers and citizens actively participated in this initiative.

The volunteers cleaned up 81km of beaches and shores of rivers and lakes, collecting and recording on data cards 13 tons of litter, of which 2.5 were recycled in cooperation with the Hellenic Recycling-recovery Corporation (He.R.R.Co.).

In total, volunteers collected 124,560 pieces of litter, from the tiniest pieces of plastic to a kids slide and a couch!

Top 10 marine litter items in Greece were cigarette filters, plastic pieces less than 2.5cm,      plastic bottles, plastic straws, plastic bottle caps, foam pieces less than 2.5 cm, glass pieces less than 2.5, plastic bags, food wraps, aluminum cans.

Cigarette butts are by far the number one marine litter item, while prominent in the Top 10 list are plastics associated with recreational activities in the coastal zone and take a very long time to break down in the environment. A plastic bottle, which may easily be left behind on the beach, needs approximately 450 years to break down into smaller fractions and microplastics that enter the food chain and end up on our plates.   Small pieces of plastics, foam and glass constitute 17% of the total items recorded.

Findings included, among other, 1,770 paper bags and 1,449 cups and plates, 1,343 metal bottle caps, 994 metres of rope, 963 glass bottles, 916 lighters, 439 metres of fishing line, 561 tin cans, 443 construction materials, 385 tires, 296 pharmaceutical substances, 284 corks, 253 diapers, 191 batteries, 85 buoys, 41 plastic containers and barrels, 35 electrical appliances, 10 hoses, 2 rubbish bins, 2 speakers, a cassette player, a steering wheel, a barbecue and a set of false teeth!

During clean-ups coordinated by HELMEPA in Athens and on the islands of Aegina and Skiathos, online recording of litter items were performed with the use of smartphones and tablets in the framework of the ‘Marine Litter Watch Month; of the European Environment Agency (ΕΕΑ), which aims at the scientific monitoring of pollution.

HELMEPA congratulates all the volunteers because through their participation they support efforts to reduce pollution and degradation of marine and coastal ecosystems. Commemorative participation Diplomas were awarded to the coordinators of the actions, as well as the children and youth that participated.