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Too many Greek beaches are rubbish

- by Andy Cornish

Rubbish on Greek island holiday beaches has been a problem for years and you can't always blame the Greeks for the mess that greets many summer holiday visitors.

Old cigarette ends stuck in the sands is more often the fault of foreign visitors and can leave popular beaches looking more like giant ashtrays by the end of the holiday season.

Now visitors are to be urged to protect Greek beaches with an information campaign to persuade smokers to clean up their old cigarette butts and keep beaches clean.

Head of the European Commission office in Greece, Panos Karvounis told a meeting of the Mediterranean SOS Network (MedSOS) that more must be done to manage household litter dumped on Greek beaches, including hundreds of thousands of cigarette butts deposited each year by both Greeks and Greek Island holiday visitors.

Karvounis said the European Commission has been discussing for many years how to manage seaside litter and make the public and consumers more aware of keeping Greek beaches clean.

In recent years there have been around 4,000 projects Europe-wide to help clean up beaches which have cost around €3.5 billion with 220 projects worth &300 million in Greece and the Greek Islands.

Greece relies so heavily on on tourism for its economy that it is vital that beaches are protected.

"Small objects of litter are as important as larger pieces," MedSOS manager, Evangelos Koukiasas, told the meeting, "If we can convince Greeks and Greek holidaymakers not to throw their cigarette butts on beaches, we can achieve many more things."

Around of 80% of rubbish found dumped in the sea comes from the land and the greatest amount of that (more than 80%) is plastic bags and bottles.

Studies by the University of Patras have revealed that the Patras Gulf on the west coast of Greece has an average of 437 itms of litter for every square kilometre which has major effects on the seabed and on marine ecosystems.

The amount of litter in the Patras Gulf is not unusual for Greece which has fallen significantly behind other countries in the amount is spends on environmental protection and cleaning up its beaches.

With record numbers of tourist visitors expected in the Greek Islands this year and with tourism now making up a huge 17% of the Greek economy, many think the country should be doing more to protect its beaches and improve its image abroad.

MedSOS officials claim that 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are thrown away annually and that Greece is among the highest in Europe for people that smoke with very high rates of smoking among younger people.

A series of measures already in the pipeline to tackle the problem of beach litter in Greece includes information kiosks on selected beaches, volunteer beach clean-ups, publishing of information online.

Tourism leaders also plan adverts in newspapers and magazines and items on radio and television as well as on social media in order to raise awareness on the Greek holiday islands about beach litter and sea pollution.