Credit: Daria Nepriakhina
The initiative is called the Clean Blue Paros project, and it’s part of a program called Clean Blue Alliance. UK-based NGO Common Seas – an organization on a mission to reduce plastic pollution in the seas – is responsible for running and organizing it. It hopes to make the island a plastic-waste-free-zone within three years. It plans to accomplish this by overhauling the waste management systems, eradicating problem plastics, changing legislation, and educating residents.
Clean Blue Paros is the world’s first-ever attempt to tackle plastic waste from a holistic whole-system-change approach. Paros was chosen because of its size (it’s not too big), monitorability (being an island its easy to see what comes in and out), and complexity (influx of tourists during the summer months). The ultimate goal is to use this project as an example – scale it up and apply the process to larger communities worldwide.
Jo Royle, managing director of Common Seas, said: “Plastic pollution is very complex and there’s no one solution. But we hope if these systems work they can be applied elsewhere too.”
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.
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.
A couple of 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.