Greek fishermen paid to collect rubbish caught from the sea for recycling

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By Louise Miner  & Ioannis Karagiorgas
Greek fishermen paid to collect rubbish caught from the sea for recycling

To help clean the seas around Greece, fishermen are being paid €200 a month to recycle waste from their nets. More and more plastics and cans are being pulled from the waters as well as the fish. A new Greek company called Enaleia has backing from Greek and foreign donors to introduce a more sustainable way of fishing.

In the last year, Lefteris Arapakis, founder of Enaleia and his team have started an ambitious programme with Greek fishermen. They have given financial incentives so when the fishermen find waste in their nets they don't throw them back into the sea but keep them to be recycled later. Arapakis and the Enaleia organisation were chosen as one of the 5 regional finalists of Europe in the Young Champions of the Earth awards by the United Nations Environment department in June.

Arapakis said, “We removed a Coca-Cola can with a very weird colour. So I got it and saw that it had expired in 1987. This thing was in the sea for 30 years. This was the first thing that shocked me. The second thing was to see the fisherman throw it back into the sea. He told me that he was not paid to catch waste, but fish"

Changed Habits

After just some months, many fishermen have already changed their habits.

"Even if they start doing it for the money, there are not many, but soon they'll like it. I was talking to a captain when he told me that in the old times he used to throw his plastic coffee cup in the sea but now he throws it in the trash can. And I reminded him that this was just 6 months ago, not old times," added Arapakis.

What can be made from recycled waste from the sea?

Tonnes of plastic waste and ghost nets are removed from Greek seas every month. Enaleia has also a plan to recycle them.

"Nets, ropes and more are sent abroad where they recycle them and convert them to socks, bathing suits, and other useful things. Plastics, tins and other waste are put to a recycling line we have created with a certified company," added Arapakis.

Tackling the waste threat from the oceans

"There must be extended cooperation. People must stop throwing away plastic, companies should stop using it as a top material and countries must help. And we must continue removing it from the seas," said Arapakis.

Fishermen are feeling energised by this programme. They know that they also help themselves by cleaning up the sea.

"When all these objects are in the sea, like bottles, bags, plastic of all kinds, even motorcycles and bicycles, this effort must continue. The sea is our life," said Fisherman Christos Panayiotou.