Move Made to Rid Monastiraki Square of Plastics

People walk at Monastiraki square in Athens. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS – With the New Democracy government promising to ban single-use plastics by June, 2021 one of the first targets will be the tourist haven of Monastiraki Square in the Greek capital, being pushed by local businesses.

The 360 cafe-bar and the Aegean Rebreath group have joined in the effort to clear the popular spot which is mobbed at the height of tourist season, the main square already turning grimy and graffiti-covered and plastic bottles everywhere.

The plan is to make it a “plastic-free” zone through education if not enforcement, said Kathimerini in a report on the scheme that is aimed at informing shops and businesses about alternatives to plastic.

“The challenges for catering professionals in minimizing the use of plastics are great. For us it’s a culture call,” said Giorgos Panagos, Director of the 360 cafe-bar, saying that despite the government plan that many cafes and restaurants aren’t aware or prepared.

The City of Athens has said it will back the initiative. “We support the effort to provide information and of course we will showcase any local effort,” also added Deputy Mayor Nikos Avramidis.

In October, 2019, three months after ousting the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, the New Democracy administration said the end of single-use plastics was coming, with Environment Minister Kostis Hatzidakis saying that, “Thirty-nine tons of plastic waste ends up in the sea in Greece, every day, and a lot of it turns into fish food.”

He further added that “The fight against plastic pollution is a government priority,” reported the site The EU Mayor, as he said he wants cooperation between the state, private sector, NGOs and citizens.

Hatzidakis said he wants “a gradual stop” of the use of single-use plastics even by the end of this year before the 2021 deadline set by the European Union in a directive aimed at stopping the use of single-use plastics, such as bottles, straws and other products.

A study at the time by the environmental group WWF said Greece produces around 700,000 tons of plastic waste every year or 68 kilos per person, while some 11,500 tons of that trash goes into Greek seas, with Greeks using about 300 plastic bags annually.

The report also showed that Greece has low levels of separate collection culture and low citizen participation with about half of all waste in blue bins for recycling being contaminated with rubbish because people won’t make the effort of using rubbish bins.

Another study by the Association of Tourism Enterprises, each of the 33 million tourists who came in 2019 would leave behind an average of two kilograms (4.4 pounds) of wastek.