14 November 2018
A bright pink lilo rescued at sea off the Italian coast.
A gull sitting on top of a beach ball on passage from Sicily to Greece.
A flip flop washed up on a Turkish beach.
These are bits of plastic you might expect to find lost at sea and are things we have found in the water in the past two and a half years.
Plastic sheeting that wrapped itself around Pintail’s prop in Cartegena harbour. That was a bit more unexpected.
Living on a boat has made us very conscious of the amount of plastic that ends up in our oceans. There is not a beach or coastline we have been on where we haven’t seen plastic waste. Some places have been worse than others.
This was the beach at Rhodes Town in Greece pre tourist season.
This was the shore at Marmaris in Turkey where the prevailing wind brought rubbish in.
This was what had washed up against the sea wall in Shengjin, Albania.
This is not the detritis of visitors to beaches. Even in the most isolated of spots with no habitation the shore is littered with plastic. It has been washed in from the sea.
Sometimes it feels as though there are as many plastic bottle tops as pebbles.
The Plastic Oceans Foundation estimates that globally
500 million plastic bottles are used each year
1 trillion plastic bags are discarded
1 billion plastic toothbrushes are thrown away
A lot of them find their way into the sea.
And it makes us sad.
Not because it ruins our views but because we know that we are part of the problem.
Living on the boat and moving around from place to place, country to country, has made us think a lot more about what happens to our rubbish. Living in the UK where our rubbish and recycling was collected regularly from outside our door. On the boat we have to collect it and store it on the boat and, when we can, go in search of the appropriate bins. It has made us realise just how much rubbish we generate and learn how seriously (or not) other countries take rubbish collection and recycling.
The rubbish crisis on Corfu really made us think about how the Greek islands deal with their waste collection and disposal and just how much worse it is made by the vast number of tourists who descend on them every summer.
Being able to recycle around the Mediterranean has been a bit hit and miss. Italy, for example, has lots of available bins for separating recycling. In Spain though it was much harder to find bins. In Albania recycling simply isn’t a thing.
Along the way we have become aware of initiatives to raise awareness about plastic in our oceans and raising awareness of the impact of single use plastics on marine life.
The Plastic Free Greece campaign is doing a great job but has an uphill battle in persuading Greece away from its serious single use plastic habit. It was hard to find a coffee shop that doesn’t serve its caffe freddos in plastic cups with plastic lids and plastic straws. It is, however, the only country in which we have seen plastic bottle tops collected.
As in lots of European countries, Italy charges 9c for plastic bags in the shops but also 2c for small bags for loose vegetables in the supermarket. Greece has a 5c charge for plastic bags but it is not strictly adhered to. In Albania the man in the mini market proudly told us they did not charge for plastic bags.
We try our best to do our bit. We continue the habits we had from home and will always recycle, glass, plastic and paper wherever possible. We have added to our collection of shopping bags and even use them as luggage when we travel inland! Following the example of the Sissies, we now also use re-useable cloth bags for buying vegetables and fruit at the market and are trying our best to buy grains, pulses and beans loose rather than packaged. We’re also trying our best to cut down on the plastic we buy. We’ve reduced the number of bottles of household cleaners we buy by buying a big bottle of dilutable all purpose cleaner and reusing spray bottles we already had on board. All little things that we hope make a small difference. We know we should do so much more.
And one thing we know is that we all, governments, communities and individuals, need to do much, much, much more to help clean up our seas and slow down this global environmental catastrophe…