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Don't Waste Venice, Environment Campaign
Don’t Waste Venice is an Environment Campaign born thanks to the partnership between ISPRA, the Italian institute for environmental protection and research, and Legambiente, an Italian environmentalist association founded in 1980. This campaign is run by a group of local volunteers who give their time to monitor and collect floating litters in Venice.
Problems to tackle
As many other cities and countries in the world, Venice has a hard battle with waste. For Venice, however, the problem is even greater due to the presence of canals in every part of the city.
Don’t Waste Venice has observed that the biggest part of the floating waste in Venice is made out of plastic. This comes as no surprise since almost 90% of all the trash is made of plastic. Plastic doesn’t decompose as organic waste does, instead, it fragments becoming smaller and smaller down to few microns and is then absorbed by plankton and enters, therefore, our food chain. The effects and consequences of plastic on living beings and on humans have yet to be understood… but we doubt it’s going to give us some kind of superpower.
The reasons behind this great amount of plastic wastes are essentially three: waste dumped directly in the canals, waste thrown on the streets which will then fall into the water due to the action of the wind, waste left outside front doors waiting to be collected.
In Venice, the collection of garbage is performed only in the morning and door to door. As a consequence, garbage bags are left out of the front doors and are torn apart be seagulls, increasing the amount of waste in the city.
The main objective is the collection, the study, and the disposal of floating garbage, as well as stranded waste in the Venetian canals and in the internal areas of the lagoon. The aim is to identify the main sources of the waste and to tackle them.
The project is carried out in the framework of DeFishGear European project thanks to national and international volunteering activities but plans on involving ever more citizens and tourists and disseminating good practices towards a collective responsibility.
While most people who care about the environment are careful to throw trash in the bin, many many smokers, do not see cigarette butts as garbage and throw them on the floor or in the canals… not thinking about the fact that cigarette butts are a plastic polymer!
We’re Gigi Lazzaro and Gregorio, who’s here on board, and we’re part of Legambiente Venezia. It’s an organization for the preservation of the environment, that doesn’t look straight for solutions but rather describes the reality through facts by monitoring the situation in the local area and then, together with the population, look for solutions that could solve the problem of environmental damage
We’re Francesca and Tiziana of ISPRA, Institute for Research and Environmental Protection, which has an Office in Chioggia, which focuses on the Sea and everything connected to it. We’re here for a European project about litter in the sea, called DeFishGear. This is basically the main project that gave birth to multiple campaigns such as the one we are now working on, which is called Don’t Waste Venice, with which we are monitoring the wastes in Venice Basically, we aren’t just collecting trash, but we are also interested in understanding where the trash is, what kind of trash it is, the composition of what we collect etc.
What is interesting about this project, Don’t Waste Venice, is the fact that it was born through DeFishGear but it grew thanks to the juxtaposition of two different organizations, one being of research, the other being of volunteering, which share a common goal.
We had met before at meetings, without ever really understanding how to work together, until we brought up a concrete plan and managed to put together our objectives.
We started this project back in June , but our planning had started much before that in order to get to know each other, understand our goals and objectives and find the right way to proceed in our common mission to speak about the environmental damages.
Basically, it is divided into 2 phases of monitoring and collecting waste, in 2 different periods of the year. This, in order to understand how the waste changes, both the amount and the typology, during different times of the year; therefore during the summer time and during the winter time.
What we have observed, is the fact that the biggest part of the waste is made out of plastic. An enormous percentages, around 90% or 87%, of all the trash is made of plastic, and once this plastic has ended up in the lagoon, it fragments in pieces that become smaller and smaller resulting in particles of microplastic or nano-plastic, which have the size of few microns and are then absorbed by plankton, entering therefore our food chain, with effects on the living beings that yet have to be understood, with unknown consequences on all the food chain and ultimately on humans.
The more complex reasons are garbage being left in the wrong places; they’re not directly thrown into the canals but, instead, they are thrown on the “fondamenta” [venetian street parallel to a canal], so when the wind or high tide come *** they’re also thrown directly into the canals! :/***
*** That’s the first reason, but there are also others!***
So the first reason is throwing them inside, the second one is dropping garbage on the ground which then ends into the water. Another reason can be the way the garbage is collected in Venice. Garbage collection is differentiated in town, but it is done by leaving it outside your door, being therefore in the “calli” and exposed for a few hours to rats, seagulls, wind, tide…
I would like to add something about cigarette butts. While most people who care about the environment are careful to throw trash in the bin, many many smokers, do not see cigarette butts as garbage and throw them on the floor or in the canals. This is known by whoever has friends who smoke, it happens to us personally too. Well, cigarette butts are a plastic polymer, something synthetic, therefore it is a trash like any other. This [behavior] is something that should be changed on a global level.
We decided to do it because this project is coming to an end, while DeFishGear will go on. It was, **if you disagree you can correct me**, quite appreciated by both our organizations, so we thought that maybe it was worth it to continue this relationship which conjugates research, community action, and environmental protection.
Unfortunately, this has to be done without any help because, as you know, there is always a lack of funds… So we told ourselves “Everybody loves Venice, why don’t we ask all these people if they are willing to donate even just 5€ or 10€ whatever a person can afford?”
We are aiming for 9.000€ to cover the expenses that are all listed clearly on our website, I.e. hosting volunteers, I mean international volunteers, or fostering social integration.
We welcome for 10/15 days people who have peculiar life backgrounds, or just citizens who want to try this experience and discover the city and rather than coming here with a big ship and being a tourist, they come here, still as a tourist, but can do something concrete for a few hours, along with us, and can socialize and have a feeling of community…Basically, these are the finalities of our crowd funding.
The project has proven to be positive and has been appreciated, and we hope we can touch that part of the soul of the people sensitive to the care of the environment, of themselves because not throwing garbage or a cigarette on the ground is indirectly caring about oneself.
Finally, coordinating ourselves in order to demand and obtain concrete solutions.
Give us a helping hand if you can, we’re not asking for much, we’d like a sign, a message. What’s good about the crowdfunding platform is that should the amount not be reached, the money will be entirely given back to the donators.
It is not lost or used for something different, we won’t keep the money, it is a topic we take very seriously.
We believe in this campaign because we would like to start 2016 working even harder, broadening our activity and increasing our possibilities.
Collect what you find on the street and don’t throw on the ground what you have in your pockets or hands especially in Venice, but in general in every part of the world and then fund us with Eppela [crowdfunding platform] 🙂
I’d suggest that we all start using less plastic, fewer envelopes, less packaging, because if from below we all refuse to buy goods that have too much packaging, maybe something will change: it is possible to make it.
For example by using a canteen rather than plastic bottles: the less plastic we will make use of, the less plastic will end up in our environment.
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