Paros, jewel of Greece's central-Cycades Aegean region, is well known for its blue-and-white painted architecture, captivating coasts, and turquoise seas. Soon, it will be known for its environmental standards as well.The island is leading the way towards a future free of plastic pollution and waste.
The initiative leading the change is called the Clean Blue Paros project, and it’s part of a program called Clean Blue Alliance. UK-based NGO Common Seas, an organisation working to reduce plastic pollution in the seas, is responsible for its stewardship. It aims to make the island a plastic-waste-free-zone within three years. It plans to accomplish this by updating and overhauling the waste management systems, eradicating problem plastics, changing legislation, and educating residents.
Clean Blue Paros is arguably the world’s first-ever attempt to tackle plastic waste from a holistic whole-system-change approach. Paros was an ideal model because of its size (it’s not too big, approximely ten miles north to south and the a similar distance east to west), monitorability (as an island its easy to see what comes in and out), and complexity (there is a large influx of tourists during the summer months, especially July and August).
The ultimate goal is to use this project as an example – scale it up and apply the process to larger communities worldwide.
The population of permanent residents in Paros is only 13,000 people, but they welcome about 400,000 tourists every summer. Most of the pollution found in the Mediterranean is plastic (95%) and is linked to the tourism industry.
The first step will be to phase out plastic straws by this summer, which is sooner than the EU ban planned for 2022. Meanwhile, Clean Blue Paros will be giving locals and tourists information intended to enhance their understanding of the ecosystem and regular beach cleans.
The mayor of Paros, Markos Koveos said:
We are encouraged by the businesses that have already committed to supporting ‘Clean Blue Paros.’ They are already acting to reduce plastic-use and better manage plastic waste, by 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 of Paros.
So far, 50 out of 70 businesses have pledged to reduce plastic. Common Seas has faith that those who haven’t committed yet will come around once the owners have had time to reassess their practices.
Other initiatives include giving schoolchildren reusable water bottles and installing drinking fountains for them to refill their bottles and turning used hotel bedsheets into reusable shopping bags. All the sustainable measures and proposals set out by this project can be adopted on local, national, and international levels.
Refillable water jugs are readily available from supermarkets and shops and can be topped up from the island's drinking fountains
The Clean Blue Paros initiative intends to collaborate closely with the municipality of Paros and the island’s residents and visitors to create a more ecologically sustainable economy which will make Paros a world leader in plastic-waste free living.
With their methodology encompassed in the phrase ”Investigate, Intervene, Influence,” Clean Blue Paros is currently carrying out research to understand Paros’ plastic ecosystem in order to identify the ways in which plastics could be prevented from entering its waters.
This summer, they will support the local community with the development of anti-plastic initiatives which they believe will have long-term effects.
Together with local experts, the project has already developed guidelines and created a dynamic toolkit to support a plastic-waste free island — which the organizers hope will also attract environmentally-aware tourists and investors.
These sustainable proposals and measures can also be adopted on both national and international levels, and inspire similar efforts on other islands and in other countries across the globe, according to members of the initiative.
Carrying out the second of two marine audits of coastal waste this month with Clean Blue Paros photo : Jonathan Leighton
Swimming in the clear blue waters off Paros
The fishing port of Alyki is currently building a new marina
Additional reporting Intelligent Living