Building on ideas and proposals that emerged from European projects on tourism and waste management, the Region of Crete has launched an initiative to protect its coasts from disposable plastics.

The Region of Crete, in the framework of the INTERREG MED BLUEISLANDS project, held on 12 March a Regional Workshop to exchange experiences and enhance capacity building. Taking place in Heraklion city, the event was entitled “We work together to protect our coasts”.  On this occasion, the Region of Crete, the Municipalities and the hoteliers of Crete signed a Memorandum of Cooperation for sustainable beaches without disposal plastics.

Even though this signature was the main goal of the event as it initiates actions within this season, it was also a good opportunity to inform participants about all the European projects in which the Region participates in the field of waste management and tourism. The WINPOL project had a prominent place and caught the attention of the audience, composed of all the Mayors of Crete Municipalities and the hoteliers of coastal hotels.

Coming back to the Memorandum, it clearly sets out separate terms for municipalities and for hoteliers. For municipalities, some of the key points are:

  • Make sure that every concession to a contractor who undertakes the management of a beach must have conditions in the contract that strictly state that the contractor must clean the beach daily;
  • Implement a separate collection of recyclables;
  • Distribute ashtrays and set a separate collection of cigarette butts;
  • Be responsible of awareness raising actions.

For hoteliers, the terms are:

  • Abolish disposable plastics such as cups, forks, dishes, drinks’ mixers;
  • Replace plastic straws with alternative products available on the market;
  • Remove plastic bottles and replace them with reusable bottles while also putting water springs everywhere;
  • Share ashtrays at the beaches and collect cigarette butts separately;
  • Organise awareness raising campaigns targeting employees and tourists.

It is very important to emphasize that the Region received support from the Ministry of Environment of Greece for this whole initiative. In a recent correspondence between the Region and the Ministry, the Ministry placed its auspices on the memorandum.

Attendees clearly applauded the initiative and optimistically signed the Memorandum. Nonetheless, they also raised a number of issues regarding the action plan that will have to be followed. The aim of this action plan will be to ensure that participants are following the terms and conditions and the Memorandum by framing a monitoring and discipline system. There has also been some intense pressure from hoteliers to the Region of Crete in order to finance the increased budget for the new supplies.

The region of Crete is now responsible for drawing up the action plan that will include documentation criteria for monitoring the actions. It remains to be seen how everything will evolve with the coronavirus pandemic, as tourism has been hit hard by the pandemic. There is no significant revenue for hoteliers this year, while they will have to pay more to implement the terms of the memorandum.