Ocean Conservancy: Citizen-science, Advocacy and Social Co-Responsibility for Trash Free Seas in Cyprus
Date: 2020 - 2021
A recent EU survey on the environment demonstrated what we have long known: while Cypriots express concern about the environment they are unlikely to act on environmental issues at the individual level. In the run-up to the 2019 ICC, AKTI launched a media campaign to encourage individuals to act spontaneously, as responsible citizens, against marine litter. The campaign was named “#potavristou”, which literally means “reach out” in the Cypriot dialect, but also has the meaning of “giving a helping hand”. AKTI, through its social media and with the support of several public media (TV & radio), asked individuals to simply “reach out”, anywhere they were on September 21st, collect the litter lying around them, take a photo and post it on social media using the hashtag “#potavristou”. Facts on marine litter and plastic pollution were shared on social media in the week leading up to the event to exemplify the #potavristou meaning. Over 500 people posted pictures and data on collected litter all around the coastline of Cyprus. It was a great achievement for Cyprus! This was the first campaign that targeted the self-responsibility of Cypriots as citizens, without organized groups or beach clean-up events on specific beaches. It is obvious that there is public sensitivity on the issue. And there is a definite need for more concerted actions, awareness, and stronger advocacy work. Cyprus has one of the lowest recycling rates in Europe. While lack of citizen action plays a role in this, inappropriately enforced legislation is also an important contributor. A striking example of this is the fact that the hospitality sector (HoReCa) is not obligated to separate and recycle their waste! With this proposed activity, capitalizing on the success of #potavristou, AKTI aims to strengthen its outreach for enhancing citizen engagement and its capacity to offer broader advocacy to a larger spectrum of citizens groups through (1) empowering/encouraging citizens to act against marine litter, (2) gathering important-for-research citizen-science data that are scarce in Cyprus, (3) liaising with key stakeholders to identify effective measures to stop the flow of litter to the marine environment.
The proposed activity is supported by the Cypriot Commissioner for Environment.
– Instill a sense of social co-responsibility about marine litter by capitalizing on the success of the 2019 ICC in Cyprus and the #potavristou campaign.
– Collect important citizen-science data to inform AKTI’s future actions/messages on marine litter.
– Advocate for stricter measures to reduce the flow of litter to the marine environment.
A. Call to Action for the 2020 ICC and #potavristou initiative using the “Clean Swell” application to record the litter collected.
B. Brand Data Surveys: AKTI will select 3 beaches around the island and implement the Ocean Conservancy Brand Data Survey in October/November 2020, identifying the main brands but also determining whether this litter originates in Cyprus or is washed ashore from neighboring countries.
C. Policy Tool Development: In the winter 2020/spring 2021 AKTI will implement 3 specially designed workshops to gather stakeholder opinions on suitable, effective and applicable measures to address the marine litter issue. The first two workshops will take the form of ‘Blue Cafes’ i.e. get togethers at informal settings where participants, comprised of a mixture of local decision-makers, business owners (i.e. hospitality sector), NGO representatives and citizen groups will discuss the issue of marine litter within their area (sources, impacts) and identify potential solutions. The third workshop will be the wrap-up event: it will bring together decision-makers at the local and national level. Based on a dedicated decision support method and the suggestions from the Blue Cafes, the participants will identify and select the most effective measures to address marine litter in Cyprus. The outputs from this workshop will be used to form a Policy Tool i.e. an Advocacy Tool for AKTI to present to high-level decision-makers. The support of the Cypriot Commissioner of the Environment is a very important asset for the action’s success.