“I am very happy to be here on behalf of the president of the Republic of Cyprus, at the annual General Assembly of the Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative.
The theme of this event is ‘Prevent Plastic in the Mediterranean Sea’, which highlights the importance of working together to attain healthy and sustainable marine ecosystems.
The problem of plastic pollution of the seas is one of the biggest challenges the world is facing today. It is estimated that 90 percent of waste in the seas and oceans comes from plastics, which are disposed in the marine environment and enter the human food chain through marine catches.
Disposable plastics, such as cups, straws and dishes, are some of the objects that most often appear on beaches and account for about half of the marine litter. Reducing the consumption of disposable plastic and thus corresponding waste is a priority for the protection of the marine environment.
The government of Cyprus and specifically the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment has implemented a series of actions to reduce plastic waste. The first such measure focuses on reducing the use of plastic bags. This action, which entails a charge placed on plastic bags, has proven very popular among the public. Since its implementation, the use of plastic bags at supermarkets and other retail stores fell by more than 80 percent.
Within the next few months, we will be implementing a public awareness campaign on marine waste, while an inventory will be carried out to document the type of waste found on our beaches and the seabed of Cyprus.
Furthermore, the Department of Environment, as the lead partner of the Interreg Med Blueislands Project, has implemented a number of activities at national level, including surveys on the presence of microplastics on beaches and on the quality of coastal waters during and after the high season tourist periods. Addressing the correlation between tourism and marine and coastal litter, and the wide seasonal variations in waste generation, will enable effective action to be taken towards improving waste management and facilitating the transition to a circular economy model in the islands of the Mediterranean.
As you know, Cyprus is a popular tourist destination and every year millions of tourists visit the island. It is therefore of outmost importance to take this into consideration in our environmental and waste reduction policies.
Another relevant area of top priority for the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment is the management of waste in tourist areas. A co-funded project is underway to promote the separate collection of glass, metal, plastic, paper and organic waste produced from hotels and other tourist establishments in the coastal regions.
Furthermore, the National Strategy on Integrated Coastal Zone Management has been finalised recently. This strategy aims at adopting an integrated coastal zone planning and management combined with better coordination of all relevant authorities in order to ensure the sustainable development of coastal areas.
In closing this address, I would like to assure you that the government takes the issue of sea pollution very seriously and aims to make our seas and beaches free of plastic waste. In working together, we can reverse the negative consequences of marine litter and achieve healthy and sustainable coastal ecosystems.
Finally, I would like to congratulate Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative for its activities towards promoting sustainable development in the tourism sector and also on the planning of the annual Assembly, which brings together important actors committed to sustainable tourism.”