Thousands of schoolchildren and environmentally aware citizens actively show their support of European Cleanup Day
The participation of volunteers in European Cleanup Day on Saturday, 10 May, surpassed every expectation. The initiative was instituted for the first time this year with the support of the European Commission and was coordinated in Greece by the Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association-HELMEPA.
More than 4, 500 individuals responded to HELMEPA’s invitation to participate and organized more than 100 beach, underwater, river bank, lake, forest, park and other cleanups of natural environs across the country. The participation of children-members of the “HELMEPA Junior” and “HELMEPA Cadets” Programs from Kindergartens, Primary and High Schools around Greece, was especially substantial.
Participants were all given detailed instructions to do with the organization of their clean-up events and the meticulous recording of of litter collected on special data sheets, so that all statistics gathered may contribute to the effective implementation of the European Union’s Marine Strategy for Good Environmental Status by the year 2020.
In the prefecture of Attica, HELMEPA in collaboration with Associate Corporate Member, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), the British Embassy in Athens, the Mediterranean Information Office for Environment, Culture and Sustainable Development (MIO-ECSDE), the Vari-Varkiza Yacht and Athletics Club and the Hellenic Recovery Recycling Corporation (HE.R.R.Co), carried out a voluntary clean up of Varkiza Beach.
One hundred and fifty volunteers – young and old – took part in the clean-up and included staff of RBS together with their families, officials from the British Embassy, members of the Vari-Varkiza Yacht and Athletics Club, as well as HELMEPA, MIO-ECSDE and HE.R.R.Co. staff. The presence of the volunteer divers “Loutraki Divers” gave a special touch to this Greek-British synergy who, with the suport of RBS, came to Varkiza and performed an underwater cleanup.
Throughout the entire cleanup, British Ambassador, Mr. John Kittmer, enthusiastically helped in the cleanup efforts. In welcoming the volunteers, the Ambassador thanked HELMEPA and RBS for the initiative and noted that it is activities such as these that unite three elements that we all must meet head-on with passion; the marine environment, the responsible management and recylcing of our litter and volunteering.
Mr. Andy Georgiou, RBS Country Executive, Greece & Head of Greek Shipping, spoke about the significance of volunteering and Corporate Social Responsibility, while he referred to HELMEPA’s efforts, which RBS as an Associate Corporate Member has been supporting for more than 20 years, with great warmth.
Chairman of MIO-ECSDE, Professor Michael Skoullos, talked about the symbolic nature but also of the scientific value of activities such as these, mentioning that the issue of marine litter will form the basis of the upcoming meeting of the EU’s Ministers for Environment in Athens, within the framework of Greece’s European Union Presidency.
On behalf of HELMEPA, the Environmental Awareness Section’s Mr. C. Triantafillou spoke about the aims of this Europe-wide initiative and thanked all participants for taking part. HELMEPA staff then gave out gloves and garbage bags and took participants through the instructions on how to record their observations of litter gathered to ensure proper documentation was made. The European Environment Agency’s electronic application, Marine Litter Watch, was used in recoding data.
The volunteers amassed a total of 7 large bags filled with litter that was mainly comprised of cigarette ends and crushed pieces of plastic, which originate from coastal recreational activities. The younger volunteers showed a particular keenness in closely scrutinizing the litter hauled by the divers from beneath the surface of the sea.
The event came to a close with a guided tour of a mobile exhibition on marine litter, which MIO-ECSDE had placed at the Yacht Club’s facilities, in the context of the European MARILISCO research program.
HELMEPA will publish the overall data collected from all cleanups across Greece at the beginning of June. All students who enlisted in European Cleanup Day will receive a special Commemorative Certificate of Participation.