May 7th 2017 was a sunny hot day in Athens. 9:15 in the morning UN Environment/MAP staff gather outside the metro station. Destination: Freattyda beach in Piraeus, Greece, to participate to the MedSOS Cleanup campaign "Don't let plastics become part of the sea", held under the auspices of UN Environment/MAP.
Enthusiastic and motivated groups of volunteers of all ages took part to the campaign. Upon arrival, they were handed big bags, gloves and sheets to record the different types of marine litter collected.
“The Governments of the Mediterranean, Parties to the Barcelona Convention, decided last year on a target of reducing marine litter around the basin by 20% by 2024. UN Environment/MAP is very keen on supporting such initiatives, that are a tiny, however crucial step towards that goal”, said Gaetano Leone, Coordinator of the UN Environment/MAP who participated in the cleanup activity.
The campaign which focused for the second consecutive year on plastics, comes in line with the UN Environment efforts to turn tide on plastics with its 5-year #CleanSeas campaign, launched last February. Cigarette butts ranked first among the litter collected by the UN Environment/MAP participating staff. The beach was also strewn with Styrofoam particles from fish boxes, and straws, in addition to oxidized iron pieces.
Marine litter has been confirmed as a critical issue in the Mediterranean. The problem is exacerbated by the basin’s limited exchanges with other oceans, its densely populated coasts, highly developed tourism and various additional inputs of litter from rivers and very urbanized areas.