Arriving on the Greek Island of Rhodes for a family wedding and a chance to relax the last thing on my mind was the thought of organising a clean up on the beaches. Yes I had considered filling our bucket with rubbish if I came across any, or picking up a pocketful of micro plastics but had not prepared myself for the images I would soon uncover. The coastlines were covered in plastics of all kinds and colours from jet ski oil bottles to millions of micro plastics ranging from thumbnail size to microscopic. Quickly it became clear that we would need to take some form of action. Because I could not leave this here knowing what it could and would do if left unchecked in the oceans.
On the first day we arrived unprepared but soon found ourselves stumbling through iron nails, plastic bottles, and endlessly spotting mirco-plastics. What was supposed to be a simple chilled morning by the ocean turned into a scouting mission, combing the beach for the main hot spots, gathering up microplastics in any bottles we could find that weren't filled with holes. Then on the days after, we were able to get some bags from the hotel maids and we started cleaning up a small area of beach each day. We focused most of our efforts on micro plastics so we didn't fill as many bags as we could have if we had went for the larger stuff. This was mainly due to the fact that we had none of our usual resources and no large bins or outside help to remove so much bags, and we relied on using the hotel bins provided.
The scary thing is the beach was a huge contrast to the clear blue ocean surrounding us. It looked clear and beautiful yet this huge problem loomed only meters away. If you had stood with your eyes gazing seawards you could see only beauty, calm seas, gleaming sunshine and rocky outcrops just waiting to be explored. But turn your back to the sea you became instantly repelled by the sight of so much destructive potential. The only safe place to play was about a 10 meter stretch from the wet sand of the waves to the harder sand and pebbles beyond. The rest was either ocean or pollution. The micro plastic problem only continued to escalate as we searched, finding thousands of peices in only a few square meters of coastline.
Every day we removed what we could with the time and resources available to us, often filling every extra pocket we had to help carry as much back to the hotel as possible. But with only 2 adults on the task and a baby in tow it was hard to keep him safe and work effectively.
The final stats;
- total bags of litter removed = 9 bags
- 1000's of micro plastics collected
- more than 1000 bottle tops collected
- more than 100 2 inch iron nails removed
- more than 100 plastic straws
- 28 lighters
- 11 shoes (all singles)
- 7 bottles of jet ski oil
- 4 syringes
- 1 small scuba tank
- piles of fishing nets and ropes
- and the usual array of other plastics from bottles and toothbrushes, to toys and even a bike helmet.
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Here are some of the images we collected;
Micro plastics and bottle tops litter the beach with every step you take
Caught in drift wood and bamboo
Just a small hand full of micro plastic gathered
Micro plastic every where
Another handfull of micro plastic
Using a bottle to gather the smallest peices on day 1.
Canisters and nets littered the coastline.
Bottles, bottles everywhere.
More caught in driftwood and bamboo.
Plastic straws became the norm to find around the tourist beds and resorts.
Removing two bags full of fishing nets and other ghost gear
Rope and plastics in the bay
Just some of the ghost gear and discarded fishing nets we found
Bottles of oil for jet ski engines and lots of plastic scraps.
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