Clean-up on Dugi Otok: we collected more than 500 kg of marine litter!

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It has been estimated that the Adriatic Sea contains significantly more floating litter compared to the rest of the Mediterranean, and it is known that over 80% of that litter is plastic. To reduce plastic pollution and the use of single-use plastics, Sunce is implementing the Plastic-Free Croatian Island project, funded by the Dalmatian Islands Environment Foundation (DIEF), with support from Conservation Collective, whose donors include Depeche Mode and Hublot.

We began the project with two clean-up actions on Dugi Otok. In collaboration with the “Petar Lorini” Elementary School branch in Božava, we cleaned Sakarun Beach on April 22. With the help of nine diligent students and their two teachers, we collected around 45 kg of litter – nearly 69% of that was plastic! An educational workshop on the creation and degradation of marine litter was also held to help children apply the principles of “reduce, reuse, and recycle” more easily.

– From all kinds of footwear and various colored pergolas to discarded tarps and countless plastic cups, we found everything. Although the weather conditions made our work significantly harder and the clean-up action had to be interrupted, we still managed to contribute to a cleaner beach by removing about fifty kilograms of marine litter. And I hope the children learned new and very useful knowledge, – emphasized Dalka Zanki, the project manager.

Plastic is most prevalent on the beaches

On May 6, Sunce organized another clean-up action in collaboration with the Telašćica Nature Park Public Institution. In addition to park employees and Sunce’s staff and volunteers, fifth-grade students from “Petar Lorini” Elementary School, employees of the Sali Municipality Tourist Board, Sali Municipality employees, and workers from the Communal company Mulić d.o.o. participated.

During this clean-up action, a total of 469 kg of litter was collected from five bays, with plastic once again being the most prevalent. All participants, divided into groups, cleaned the Čušćica, Mala Proversa, Tripuljak, Buha, and Danovica bays.

– It is necessary to raise awareness about marine litter and take all necessary actions on land to prevent these numbers from recurring. Public interest in protecting the Adriatic Sea is growing, and citizen participation in similar activities shows a desire for change, – said Zanki, further emphasizing the principles of reducing, reusing, and recycling waste.

Sali elementary school students, who energetically cleaned the Čušćica bay, also noticed that most of the waste was plastic, humorously remarking that they could have come to the clean-up action with a vacuum cleaner because there was so much microplastic.

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Various waste from probably the entire Adriatic were found in the bays. After collection, all the fully packed trash bags were transported by the diligent rangers of the Telašćica Nature Park to the Mir bay, where the collected litter was monitored.

– More than 70% of the litter we collected was plastic, about 18% was processed wood, and less than 3% were fabric and rubber, – noted Zanki after the monitoring according to the Protocol for organizing clean-up actions in the marine environment and coastal area on the territory of the Republic of Croatia.

Our volunteers Filipa Šiljeg, Andro Rudan, and Margarita Ita Darlić, who are members of Sunce’s clean-up action team – TAČ, also helped with the clean-up action. Volunteers play a significant role in Sunce’s activities, and if you want to contribute to our projects and environmental protection, we invite you to join Sunce as a volunteer. You can also contribute to societal development and the creation of better future by becoming a member of the association.

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Incorporating environmental topics into school curriculas is essential

Sali fifth graders tirelessly collected litter from one of their favorite bays, stating that they don’t like swimming where there is trash and never questioning whether they should pick up beach litter.

– I feel terrible when I see trash in nature, and we should all strive for a cleaner environment, – said a student who, like other students, responds to clean-up actions organized by the school but also participates in other bay clean-up actions with his parents.

Elementary students know that all this pollution comes from human activities, but opinions are divided regarding the origin of marine litter. Some say that the waste comes from Italy, while others think it’s from Greece and Albania. In any case, they agree that the litter reaches our coast and islands through ocean currents from all the countries sharing the Adriatic Sea. Naturally, Croatia must also take part of the responsibility.

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– We notice that children absorb knowledge in our workshops and environmental education sessions, which we appropriately organize every year, – said Katarina Basioli, education associate at the Telašćica Nature Park. Basioli adds that children prefer learning through dynamic outdoor activities, such as our recent workshop on proper waste sorting.

Supervision and engagement of the local community

– The control carried out by public institution supervisors who directly communicate with Nature Park visitors is of great importance, – emphasized Milena Ramov, head of the Natural and cultural heritage department at the Telašćica Nature Park. Ramov adds that during ticket sales, visitors are informed about allowed and prohibited activities in the park, including proper waste management and anchoring rules.

Juraj Milin, a ranger at the Telašćica Nature Park, confirms that supervisors spend most of the summer season in the field. He adds that he rarely sees intentional pollution by sailors, but when it does happen, the litter first ends up in the sea and then on the beach, brought by the wind.

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Milin also mentions that it is excellent that local people respond to clean-up actions and that “before the pandemic, locals used to come to clean-up actions even with their boats and thus clean various bays of our archipelago.”.

However, regardless of the frequent clean-up actions we conduct with our partners, the essence of this project is to continue with environmental awareness, targeting both younger and older age groups.

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