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«ZERO WASTE BEACH»: Tackling marine pollution with the support of The Coca-Cola Foundation

«ZERO WASTE BEACH»: Tackling marine pollution with the support of The Coca-Cola Foundation

AKTI Project and Research Centre implemented the project «ZERO WASTE BEACH», which was supported by Coca-Cola Foundation in an attempt to tackle marine litter.

Marine litter is an increasing cross-sectoral global challenge with no geographic/political boundaries. Plastic has been recognized as the most abundant and persistent form of marine litter globally, with a recent study suggesting that more than 5 trillion plastic pieces are currently floating around the world’s oceans. In its larger forms (e.g. plastic bottles, six-pack rings, plastic bags, fishing-related items) plastic can cause the entanglement and suffocation of marine wildlife. Plastic does not biodegrade, but rather breaks down into continuously smaller pieces, called microplastics (less than 5mm). In this smaller form, microplastic items can be ingested by marine wildlife transferring all the organic pollutants that they accumulated as they floated in water. Recent studies have shown that this can have important impacts on the food chain, as ingested microplastics have been identified in marine organisms destined for human consumption. The possible effect that this can have on human health is still uncertain.

Cyprus has some of the cleanest beaches in Europe: it has the largest number of Blue Flag awarded beaches per capita in the world – 63 beaches along 350 km of coastline (in 2017). The economy of Cyprus is heavily based on coastal tourism. However, there is very little information on the amount of litter found on its beaches, floating in its waters or resting on its seabed, and its likely effect on tourism. Research undertaken by AKTI in the summers of 2016 and 2017 on 10 Blue Flag beaches in Cyprus has shown that, despite the fact that these beaches are cleaned daily by the local authorities who administer them, there are still important quantities of litter found on them. Specifically, what is left on the beach is mainly cigarette butts, plastic straws and small pieces of plastic, particularly from food wrappings – i.e. items that beachgoers buy from Coastal Businesses. Plastic, in all of its forms but especially in smaller fragments, is now ubiquitous on even Cyprus’s cleanest and most prestigious beaches. For a country whose economy is based on tourism, this can pose a significant problem, as it is bad for its image. To address this problem and to promote sustainable practices in entrepreneurial and civil everyday actions, this initiative was structured to target:

a) specifically the Coastal Businesses, and based on the “producer responsibility” mentality, to enhance their active involvement in minimizing litter that enters marine environment through the implementation of innovative, hands-on-the-problem awareness-raising and participatory measures. The project aimed to engage Coastal Businesses, i.e. beach bars, snack shacks, beach restaurants, coastal hotels etc (henceforth called coastal businesses), strewn around Cypriot beaches, to take ownership of ‘their’ stretch of beach in order to protect it and minimize the amount of marine litter, and especially plastic, left on it by their customers and in general beach goers and support them to incorporate sustainable practices in their everyday performance through suggesting solutions, encouraging creative ideas and actions and award them, to make their effort visible to their clients.

b) Local Authorities and general public. Enhance their active involvement, encourage their participation in the campaigns and the solution-oriented actions, make them feel the “ownership” of clean coasts and seas, of marine litter recycling champions, of litter free coasts, “their coasts”.

This was achieved through a series of interrelated activities as follows:

  1. On-the-go recycling through bins on coastal walkways and public coastal spaces: installed 50 recycling bins on walkways and public coastal spaces and worked with local authorities to include them in their collection routines. Collected  2 tons of recyclable waste from these bins in the first pilot year of the project; Got local authorities and local civil society “adopt” the on-the-go recycling bins through for e.g. their engagement in monitoring of collected litter.
  2. Beach cleanups in conjunction with the International Coastal Cleanup: implemented annual beach cleanups on selected beaches with the collaboration of the Responsible Coastal Businesses, schools, volunteers (including Coca-Cola System employees) and local authorities. AKTI is the national focal point in Cyprus of the International Coastal Cleanup of the Ocean Conservancy. Therefore, all the cleanups were implemented using the International Coastal Cleanup Protocol. The data was included in the Regional Marine Litter Database, developed by cypriot experts and managed by AKTI ( and were also submitted to the ICC and included in the International Ocean Conservancy Data Base.  500 volunteers participated in the cleanups of 2018, and 1.16 tones litter were collected.
    Some photos from the Beach Cleanups are available here
  3. Built on the “Responsible Coastal Businesses Network” in Cyprus that is initiated and managed by AKTI and has received the BeMed recognition (Beyond Plastics Mediterranean) for being an innovative action with strong social and environmental impact. Strengthened and expanded the Network, to 73 members around the island, through Implementation of an extensive awareness-raising campaign during summer period, targeting all coastal businesses on the island. Within the first pilot year of the project, the number of Coastal Businesses voluntarily joining the Network reached 130 members;
    How to join the Responsible Coastal Businesses Network_GR 
    How to join the Responsible Coastal Businesses Network_EN
    The Responsible Coastal Businesses Network is visible on this Map

A prerequisite for registering a business on the network was only to “get informed” with the practices that can be implemented. For that reason, a Decalogue with good practices that can be implemented by Coastal Businesses to reduce marine litter and specifically plastic waste was produced to be disseminated to all the participating businesses.
Examples of Good Practices

4. Tracked and recorded recycling waste from the Responsible Coastal Businesses: The members of the Responsible Coastal Businesses network required, as a mandatory term of their network membership, to record the amount of waste (PMD, glass, general) that they disposed. 1 ton of recyclables were separately collected by the Responsible Coastal Businesses Network in the first pilot year.

5. Launched a competition (a) for the coastal businesses that have managed to manage/reduce plastic waste most effectively over the summer period through synergistic activities with other key stakeholders; and (b) for the coastal local authorities and/or NGOs that promoted actions for increasing recycling in coastal areas e.g. implement of on-the-go recycling actions.
Terms and Conditions_GR
Application Form_GR

6. Organized the award ceremony for the winners of the competition. AKTI successfully completed the Competition coupled with a highly publicized award ceremony titled Zero Waste Beach Awards 2018. The winners can be seen by clicking the link below:

Some photos & videos from Zero Waste Beach Awards 2018

Through these 6 axes of activities, with the implementation of innovative tools (such as recognition and awards) and solution oriented actions, this initiative targeted to minimize the waste that enters coastal and marine environment and introduce sustainable practices in the operation of Coastal Businesses, Local Authorities and general public. Because the success of recycling and waste management especially of land based litter that enters coastal and marine environment, is highly related to the hands-on participation of businesses and Authorities.