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Alonissos imposes ban on plastic bags

Beaches on the holiday island of Alonissos look set to be free of plastic bags next summer as island authorities impose a blanket ban.

Hotels, shops, restaurants on the islands have agreed to prohibit the use of plastic bags across the island.

Alonissos is one of the Sporades group of islands and lies at the heart of a marine conservation area designed to offer protection to rare animals such as the endangered Mediterranean seal.

Alonissos Mayor Petros Vafinis said the plastic bag ban has been agreed by the whole island in a move that is designed to protect the island's environmental status.

Greek island holidaymakers are well aware of the blight of plastic bags on beaches throughout Greece.

Not only are they an unsightly blot on many Greek beaches, but they are also a danger to marine wildlife. They can be mistaken for jellyfish and swallowed by marine creatures such as seals which then choke on them.

Petros Vafinis said: "Plastic bags take 400 to 500 years to disappear and are very damaging to both land and sea. We discussed it at the municipal council and decided to go ahead with the idea, with the help of the Hellenic Society for the Study and Protection of the Monk Seal and the Mediterranean SOS Network."

Now island hoteliers and shopkeepers have stopped importing plastic bags and have replaced them with paper. Even shops selling souvenirs are to use paper bags despite the added expense.

It adds to the island's recycling programme that began in 2012 and a campaign to limit the use of plastic bags on Alonissos which was launched earlier this year.

Natalia Roumeliot, projects coordinator at the Mediterranean SOS Network, added: "Alonnisos is a small island with tremendous environmental value and has a very positive stance when it comes to environmentally friendly practices."

The Network is to donate 2,000 paper bags and launch its own awareness campaign aimed not only as islanders but at Alonissos holiday visitors as well.

Hopes are high that the island will have rid itself of plastic bags completely by the end of the 2016 holiday season.

Last May the European Parliament called on member states to limit the use of plastic bags in shops and supermarkets. Surveys show that each Greek uses an average 242 plastic bags each year. The EU hopes to cut that to 90 by the end of 2019 and to 40 by 2025.

The aim on Alonissos is to cut this to zero within a year. Natalia Roumeliot said: "Reducing the use of plastic bags is important for the environment. This might sound somewhat ambitious, but I think Alonissos will succeed."

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