The participation of thousands of volunteers in HELMEPA’s beach and underwater cleanups in Greece…

Environment — By on December 1, 2014 at 5:14 PM
Volunteers cleaning the historic Kellarios Bay in Thessaloniki

Volunteers cleaning the historic Kellarios Bay in Thessaloniki

The participation of thousands of volunteers in HELMEPA’s beach and underwater cleanups in Greece sends a strong message of hope

From the island of Corfu to the island of Rhodes and from the city of Alexandroupolis to the town of Ierapetra in Crete, environmentally conscious volunteers the country-over actively demonstrated their concern for clean seas and beaches by taking part in the 2014 International Coastal Cleanup campaign, an initiative of the Washington D.C.-based Ocean Conservancy. HELMEPA coordinated the activities of the Campaign in Greece for what was the 23rd consecutive year between 20 September and 20 October, which bore the slogan, “We clean up all that we left behind on our beaches”.

 

HELMEPA Junior members from the 3rd Elementary School of Kos at Mylos beach

HELMEPA Junior members from the 3rd Elementary School of Kos at Mylos beach

Some 7, 200 volunteers, a number almost triple that compared to total participation in the Campaign in 2013, from 229 public and private stakeholders took part in the Campaign by organizing 169 beach and 30 underwater cleanups throughout each of the 13 Regions of Greece. The significant involvement of the educational community in this initiative was particularly noteworthy; children-members and volunteer teachers of the “HELMEPA Junior” Program, young HELMEPA Cadets volunteers and other students of all ages heralding from 74 kindergartens, Primary, Junior and Senior High Schools of various areas around Greece each gave their own special touch to the Campaign with their share in the diverse activities.

Voluntary cleanup activities were also carried out by ten HELMEPA member-companies and 8 other companies, with staff members and their families taking part, expressing both their personal and corporate social responsibility towards the natural environment of Grece and responsibility towards society as a whole.

HELMEPA Junior members and their teachers from the 27th Elementary School of Volos during their cleanup of Alykes in Volos

HELMEPA Junior members and their teachers from the 27th Elementary School of Volos during their cleanup of Alykes in Volos

The broad involvement of Hellenic Coast Guard Officers, from 28 Coast Guard Stations and Port Authorities, was especially significant. With directives given to them by the Marine Environment Protection Directorate of the Ministry of Shipping, they in effect supported the organization and implementation of activities on a local scale. Furthermore, many Local Authority Organizations, Educational Directorates, EnvironmentalEducationCenters, Protected Areas’ Management Bodies, cultural and environmental associations and groups of volunteers became actively engaged in local activities a bid to inform and heighten the awareness of their community of the issue of marine litter.

Volunteering divers and their “catch” from the underwater cleanup organized by the Central Port Authority of Chania at Marathi in Souda, Crete

Pupils and teachers from the 1st Elementary School of Stylida

As volunteers young and old descended on beaches, rivers and lakes, they cleared a coastline of a total of 117 kilometres in length and amassed and painstakingly recorded 20 tons of rubbish, of which 6 tons was recycled in collaboration with the Hellenic Recovery Recycling Corporation (HE.R.R.Co).

In total, the volunteers collected 225, 665 items of trash, among which were included 95, 391 cigarette ends that together with various other items, made up the Top 10 of most common items of trash found along Greek coastlines. We meet mostly plastic items of rubbish which are associated to recreational activities in the coastal zones, a fact that demonstrates how we are all individually accountable for coastal and marine pollution.

 

TheTop 10 marine litter items

found along Greek coastlines(# of pieces)

Cigarette ends

95, 391

Plastic bottle caps

16, 790

Plastic bottles

14, 380

Straws

12, 191

Pieces of plastic < 2.5cm in length

10, 926

Plastic lids

  7, 108

Aluminum beverage cans

  5, 835

Food packaging/wrapping

  5, 792

Plastic bags

  5, 728

Pieces of styrofoam < 2.5cm in length

  5, 478

Volunteering divers and their “catch” from the underwater cleanup organized by the Central Port Authority of Chania at Marathi in Souda, Crete

Volunteering divers and their “catch” from the underwater cleanup organized by the Central Port Authority of Chania at Marathi in Souda, Crete

Unfortunately, for yet another year, many household items and white-goods were also found discarded along beaches, such as 99 electrical appliances and mobile phones, 8 chairs, 2 mattresses and an entire couch, 2 barbecue grills but also various articles of clothing such as 36 pairs of shoes and flip-flops! What is more, many pieces of trash that are dangerous to human health, like the 419 batteries, 323 used diapers and 188 syringes, not to mention the derelict fishing gear among which were 894 metres of synthetic netting and 1, 309 metres of fishing line, were found lining our coasts.

Those who also made an important contribution to the Campaign were the 150 volunteer divers, who took part in 30 underwater cleanups across the island of Andros, Varkiza, Vouliagmeni, Thessaloniki, Kavouri, the island of Corfu, Loutraki, the island of Patmos, Rethymnos in Crete and Psathopyrgos in Achaia. They hauled what was a total of more than 4 tons of trash from the sea bed, among which were 100 elastic tyres and other car parts, 125 metres of rope, 189 metal pipes, 21 anchors, 4 electric water heating systems, 3 rubbish bins, 2 beach umbrellas and a motorcycle frame!

HELMEPA wholeheartedly congratulates all the volunteers for their participation and thanks the local stakeholders, Schools’ Directorates and the companies, for their cooperation in the carrying out of the range of activities, as well as the Ministry of Shipping’s Marine Environment Protection Directorate and HE.R.R.Co. for their invaluable support. In closing, it should be mentioned that HELMEPA awarded 1, 659 Commemorative Certificates of Participation to the activities’ coordinators and to the volunteer students who took part.

A catalogue of all those who participated in the International Coastal Cleanup Campaign 2014 may be found at the following link (in Greek only).

http://www.helmepa.gr/pdf/ICC2014-participants-in-Greece.pdf

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