1,232 kilos of waste was collected through organised clean-ups this year alone as part of the Saving our Blue campaign alone, TheJournal.mt is informed.
The most popular items collected include bulky pieces of waste such as wood, rubber tyres and fishing gear, as well as macro and micro plastics, the latter being plastic pieces less than 5mm in size.
All these waste items are clearly harmful to marine ecosystems, making the matter even more important to address given that 35% of Maltese waters classify as Marine Protected Areas.
Unfortunately, it appears that littered beaches are becoming even more and more common. Typically, one would see litter ranging from plastic bottles, cigarette butts, food wrappers, food containers, plastic bags, cutlery, straws, cotton buds, cups and lids, amongst others. Once littered, these items unfortunately would end up carried away into sea, harming marine life and possibly entering our food chain.
Awareness messages on the dangers of single-use plastics and irresponsible littering have been continuously circulating in the last three years by the Environment ministry, emphasizing the need to stop littering and protect our marine habitats. But much needs to be done.
This year, this opportune call for awareness comes at an impeccable timing, with the banning of the import of single-use plastics at the beginning of this year. Basically, the products that are prohibited from being imported to Malta include plastic beverage stirrers, food and Beverage Polystyrene containers, plastic cutlery, plates, straws, oxo-degradable plastics, balloon sticks and cotton bud sticks. Coming January 2022 these same items will also be banned from being placed on the shelves to be sold.
In fact, this year, the Saving our Blue Campaign is intensifying its awareness messages to educate the public about this change, and more importantly on the options of sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics that are already available on the local market. Several businesses have already jumped on the bandwagon by putting alternative products on their shelves, such as bamboo cotton buds, bamboo cutlery and paper straws.
For the third consecutive year, the ministry for the environment has planned a busy summer schedule, in particular through the organisation of various clean-ups and dives around Malta and Gozo. Thanks to the help of local environmental NGOs’, including Din l-Art Helwa, Bird Life Malta, Nature Trust and #Żibel a considerable number of litter has already been collected and properly disposed of.
Now more than ever, we need to embark on the effort to eliminate single use plastic from our marine environment to take the Saving our Blue Pledge and join in being part of the solution and not the pollution.