Like many islands in Greece, waste production on the island of Paros explodes in summer when over 400,000 tourists join a local population of roughly 13,000.
And now the popular Cycladic destination has set its sights on becoming the world’s first island that is truly free of plastic waste.
Clean Blue Alliance, an initiative of Common Seas, which is an organisation that seeks the reduction of plastic waste and the plastics pollution in sea is behind the push to ban all plastic.
The project is evidence-based and solutions-oriented as it identifies and supports local enterprises that reduce and reuse plastics.
This innovative initiative is a collaboration between ground-breaking Paros local businesses, the World Wildlife Fund Greece and the Cyclades Preservation Fund.
Clean Blue Paros is empowering and supporting the residents of Paros and the island’s visitors, in order to enhance their understanding of their plastic ecosystem, as well as identify and invest in the solutions that will have the biggest impact in reducing the plastic items most commonly found in their seas.
Paros Mayor Markos Koveos said that the first step is to phase out plastic straws by next summer, ahead of the EU ban planned for 2022. “We are encouraged by the businesses’ who have already committed to support Clean Blue Paros. They are already acting to reduce plastic-use and better manage plastic waste; such as offering incentives for customers using refillable cups and providing alternatives to plastic straws. We will continue to support the growth of conservation and ecological awareness in Paros,” he said.
In high season, Paros cafes get through around 1,000 plastic takeaway cups a day. Thousands of plastic bottles of water are shipped in daily, because many believe the tap water is undrinkable, although the water company insists that is wrong.
Together with local experts, the organisation has now developed guidance and created a dynamic toolkit to support a plastic-waste free Paros, that will also attract environmentally-aware tourists and investors.
Other islands such as the Seychelles archipelago have banned single-use plastics, but this is the first time an entirely new approach is being taken to make an island completely free of plastic waste.
Huge signs are now displayed at the airport to tell visitors about the Paros initiative and the team’s first task was to convince as many local businesses as possible to discontinue plastic straws and bottled water.
Another big challenge is overhauling waste management.
Fourteen businesses are piloting the separate collection of plastic cups and bottles which have a higher value recycle rate.
The plastic will then be recycled on the mainland into something that can return to the island, such as benches.
Although there is a long way to go, the large team behind the initiative is positive it can be achieved.