From education to transformation: AWASTER project unveils plans for the Adriatic Sea

interreg-sastanak-grupna-fotografija-partneri

The Adriatic Sea is facing serious challenges due to the increasing amount of marine litter that threatens marine life and the preservation of its natural beauty. Data shows that the amount of marine litter is increasing, which requires urgent action. However, did you know that up to 80% of marine litter originates from land?

Lack of awareness about waste management is present at all levels of society in Croatia and Italy, jeopardizing the achievement of EU goals regarding sustainable waste management. Through unsystematic waste management and the application of outdated linear production and consumption models, where items are improperly discarded after single use, we seriously harm the environment, climate, and health of every individual. Six partners from Croatia and Italy have recognized the importance of strengthening existing knowledge bases on waste management at educational and professional levels, including promoting environmental awareness from an early age, and have begun implementing the AWASTER project (Adopting WASTE as Resource).

The project lead partner IRENA – Istrian Regional Energy Agency, and partners Association for Nature, Environment, and Sustainable Development Sunce, SINLOC SPA, LAG Eastern Venice, Municipality of Casarano, and Local Action Group LAG 5 have joined forces to address marine litter issues along the Adriatic coast as part of the AWASTER project.

Educating the youngest is the main plan

The project is funded by the cross-border cooperation program Interreg Italy-Croatia 2021-2027. It will be implemented in the coastal areas of Croatia and Italy until the end of August 2026. As a kick-off of project activities, partners held a meeting on April 23rd and 24th in Labin as part of the Green and Blue Energy Transition Days of Istria County and agreed on the direction of activities.

The overall objective is to reduce waste production by promoting and advocating for the principles of circular economy through educational programs and courses, as well as through cross-border exchange of knowledge and experiences involving elementary and high school students and stakeholders from the economic sector.

– The objective of creating future citizens who are aware of their role in nature conservation, environmental conservation education, and the importance of waste reduction should be integrated into every educational system, – emphasized Andrea Poldrugovac, the project manager from IRENA.

– We will involve schools in educational activities according to the guidelines developed through the project. Together with the youngest, we will organize environmental cleanup actions with the aim of children passing on knowledge to their parents. The idea is to establish small EcoLabs to produce innovative products from plastic waste, – Tea Kuzmičić Rosandić from Sunce added.

Decision-makers and the economic sector are essential components

The partners will carry out a series of activities to promote the early adoption of circular economy principles and sustainability.

– We will develop guidelines for decision-makers and a joint strategy and action plan, as well as a catalogue of best practices with circular economy principles for the economic sector to promote efficient resource use. The experience of the Municipality of Casarano and ARO/LE9 in waste collection services will be of great benefit for regional analysis and the overall project implementation, – said Francesca Pozzar from SINLOC SPA.

– The Local Action Group LAG 5, i.e., 11 municipalities from the islands of Korčula, Lastovo, and Mljet, as well as the Pelješac peninsula, will actively contribute to the development of guidelines, utilizing its knowledge of the challenges related to marine litter accumulation in the southern Adriatic, – emphasized Lana Vilović from LAG 5.

– Our role, as the development agency for the Veneto region and the leading organization of local action groups in fisheries, is to provide insights into the local situation regarding marine litter and its connection to fisheries, – said Cinzia Gozzo from the VeGAL agency.

The AWASTER project has a value of over 1.5 million euros and will last for 30 months. This project takes specific steps towards cleaner seas and coastlines at the regional level. Collaboration between regions in Croatia and Italy will be crucial for successfully addressing the challenges of marine litter in the Adriatic.