Beyond Plastic Croatia conference was held

– When we look at the situation in the sea in terms of litter and how much plastic, especially single-use, is in the sea and what problems it creates for the marine ecosystem, it is extremely important to start making some changes. Especially us in Dalmatia, who depend on that sea and tourism is linked to the sea, which is our most important resource – said Sunce’s director Gabrijela Medunić-Orlić.

On September 15 and 16, 2022, an interdisciplinary conference on waste management priorities – reduce, reuse and recycle Beyond Plastic Croatia was held in Split.

The conference was attended live by more than 50 participants and interested public could’ve join via Facebook LIVE where they were informed and discussed about waste management, the use of single-use plastics and the level of plastic pollution in the Mediterranean Sea.

The conference was opened by the Executive Director of Sunce Gabrijela Medunić-Orlić while the Prefect of Split-Dalmatia Blaženko Boban addressed the participants with a welcome speech.

Executive Director of Sunce Gabrijela Medunić-Orlić

– It is very important, especially here in Split, to start a separate waste collection system, a recycling industry and bio-waste composting, things that somehow “don’t work” in this area. We are glad that the Director of Čistoća is one of the panelists and that the County supported us, even though on some issues in further steps in waste management we do not agree with the County. However, the City, which is responsible for the establishment of a separate waste collection system in Split, unfortunately did not send its representative to this conference where they could have learned a lot – said Medunić-Orlić.

– We are a county that has 1/3 of our entire Adriatic coastal area, if you turned that are into one straight line, you could reach from Split to Frankfurt. This conference is a step towards the awareness of our population, responsible people to preserve this most beautiful part of the globe. Every step you take, you are one step closer to your goal. We elders were not so prepared, that’s why young people need to educate all of us, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers. In addition, many more people, public institutions, and political segments need to be motivated to take their own step to reach the final goal together – Boban said.

Prefect of Split-Dalmatia Blaženko Boban

For Plastic-Free Croatian Island

The conference was also an opportunity to present the results of the For Plastic-Free Croatian Islands project, within which the conference is organized, and which is financed by The Beyond Med Association. The project manager and conference organizer, Tea Kuzmičić Rosandić, invited all those gathered to consider how to use the good results of this project in future work.

We remind you that the general goal of the project is to contribute to reducing the use of single-use plastics, as well as reducing plastic pollution in the Adriatic and Mediterranean seas, by implementing sustainable waste management measures based on the reduce, reuse, recycle principles in the municipality of Sali on Dugi otok and Stari Grad on the island Hvar.

Within project, Action plans to reduce plastic pollution were drawn up and signed, based on which Decisions on reducing the use of single-use plastic were made for the Municipality of Sali and the City of Stari Grad, as well as institutions and companies in (co) owned by of the Municipality/City, which determine a reduction in the use of single-use plastic by 30% and replacing certain items that are used in business with more environmentally friendly solutions.

Conference was devided in sessions by topics: Society, Individuals and Waste; Marine Litter; Public Policies and Waste Management; Circular Economy and Waste Treatment Technologies and Business Sector and Waste Management.

– We gathered the scientific community from different sectors and organizations, the Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries from Split, the Faculty of Science and Mathematics from Zagreb, we also have foreign lecturers from Tunisia, Malta, France and Belgium, from the organization Seas At Risk which brings together all associations and organizations who deal with sea protection, and who presented their experiences and recommendations. They gave their insight into how the SUP Directive is implemented in Croatia and at the level of the European Union and what is the situation with marine litter at the level of the EU – said Kuzmičić Rosandić.

Tea Kuzmičić Rosandić, project manager and conference organizer

Marine litter

– Great pressures on nature are the main reasons why marine litter is a topic in the EU parliament. – said Frédérique Mongodin, in front of Seas At Risk. The representatives therefore requested several measures to reduce marine litter in the sea, such as additional restrictions on the use of single-use plastics, strengthening the circular economy through collection, recycling and repurposing and therefore increasing the value of products, as well as designing fishing equipment in a more sustainable way.

Ph.D. Pero Tutman from the Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries, one of the presenters of the first session of the conference on marine litter, said that the Institute responded to the invitation because of the cooperation they have with Sunce on this issue, and this is the first conference in Split that is organized on the topic of marine litter.

– Until about ten years ago, waste pollution was not considered pollution, people did not pay much attention to it, they didn’t know what the consequences were. Through various projects, conferences, educations, Sunce is working intensively on this, people’s awareness has risen that this waste, and that is all that man produces, and plastic prevails, has a negative effect, not only visually, but numerous organisms get entangled in that waste, there is also microplastic. These influences are much more complex and far-reaching.

I must admit that civil society started to deal with it before scientific institutions and our legislation did. Our legislation only recently started dealing with this, while the Sunce has been dealing with this topic for a long time. As a maritime, coastal and touristic country, we have a problem with marine litter, which is one shortcoming in the chain of waste management on land. Therefore, in our coastal municipalities, numerous ecological beach and diving clean-up campaigns are organized, which remove significant amounts of waste – pointed out Dr. Tutman.

– For ten years, from the first day until today, we have been monitoring waste at the same locations, and that is just a slice of time under ideal conditions. Our research, fortunately, does not show an increasing trend of microplastics – said Dubravka Bojanić Varezić from the Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries.

Kristina Pikelj from the Faculty of Science and Mathematics spoke about the accumulation of plastic waste in seaweed banquets and emphasized how important it is to monitor, research, use an interdisciplinary approach and, most importantly, involve the local community.

Panel discussion

– We see a lot of “plasterers” on the beach we monitor. It is a combination of waste oil and fuel from ships that has hardened and collects plastic, and it is different from any other plastic pollution and certainly a problem that we will have to solve soon – said Pikelj.

From the Faculty of Environmental Protection, Ph.D. Natalija Špeh emphasized the need for an international strategic document for the future good quality of the marine ecosystem.

– In principle, what we advertise in tourism as “our remote islands – an oasis of purity and peace” turned out to be not true, so far in our research. In fact, there is no part of our coast that is not threatened by marine litter. Vis, Lastovo, Mljet, when we talk about the sea, these areas are even more loaded with marine litter than we originally thought. And after the presentation of Manya Russo from Malta and Aida Ben Hassen Trabelsi from Tunisia we see that something similar is happening to them – concluded Dr. Tutman.

dr. Pero Tutman

– In the area of the Lastovo archipelago where we monitored the amount and composition of marine litter within the LIFE Artina project, quite large amounts of styrofoam were found. On the larger pieces, we could conclude that they were fishing caches. We also found large quantities of fishing tools, and we can notice an increase of plastic bottles and glasses waste – reported Fedra Dokoza from Sunce.

Sylvain Petit invited everyone to a rendezvous in Marseilles where we will be able to ask The Beyond Med Association for new funds for these goals.

Public Policy and Waste Management

On the second day of the conference, the Public Policy and Waste Management session resulted in a positive dialogue among several important stakeholders. With the excellent leadership of waste management expert Marijan Galović, the panel discussion was attended by the Director of Čistoća Split Ivica Karoglan, Mladen Perišić from the Split-Dalmatia County, Tomislav Vidović from the Fund for Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency, from the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development Nela Palarić, Marko Košak from Friends of Earth Croatia (ZA), Frédérique Mongodin in front of Seas at Risk and the manager of operational and technical affairs of Utility company Stari grad Mihael Gamulin.

– We always have this difference between the north, where everything works and everything is possible, and the south, where it simply isn’t. Is it a difference in approach, mentality, proximity to the European way of thinking or something else, the difference simply still exists and is difficult to reconcile. I personally regret it because I come from these areas – said Nela Palarić from MINGOR.

Director of Čistoća Split Ivica Karoglan now has experience in continental and coastal Croatia and Marijan Galović wonders if Croatia should have two separate Waste Management Plans.

– Samobor and Split cannot be compared. No matter how much energy you give to a smaller environment, you must raise it to full potential here. I do not agree that Dalmatia is “in banana”. We in Split have a space problem and we are not the first administration that came to ask the County for a permit for waste recovery. Now we are in the phase of finding space and our county will be the best within three to five years – said Ivica Karoglan.

Tomislav Vidović from the Fund for Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency presented the Public Call for direct co-financing of “PLASTIC FREE ZONE” promotion projects for Public institutions for the management of protected areas, which is open until the end of the year and for which they secured 4 million HRK.

Green Office & Swap Fair

With this conference, we wanted to find solutions to reduce marine litter, build partnerships and strengthen the participants’ capacities to implement sustainable waste management, so in the sessions Circular Economy and Waste Treatment Technologies, Business Sector and Waste Management and Society, the Individual and Waste had excellent lectures. Zvonimir Jukić presented the development of the UniCompoST device, Eduard Kalčić spoke about the Cupup System, the Green Office service by Sunce was presented by Maja Golem, and Olena Pidleteichuk and Lina Vuletić presented the Sunce’s Swap Fair.

You can watch the entire conference HERE.

– Our next steps are the continuation of cooperation, finding funds for new projects and encouraging competent institutions to improve the legislative framework and its implementation, with the aim of preserving the Adriatic and the entire marine ecosystem – concluded conference organizer Kuzmičić Rosandić.

– We are smart enough and if we can go to the Moon, we can also solve environmental problems on Earth. I hope so. Otherwise, who knows what will happen to our species – emphasized Gabrijela Medunić-Orlić.

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