The Problem

One could draw an analogy between the perilous ten-year journey of king Odysseus back to his homeland Ithaca and the environmental catastrophe that the contemporary inhabitants of the island have faced for the last 10 years, which peaked when a cyclone ravaged through Western Greece.

In 2012, an aquaculture was abandoned in Ithaca, degrading the natural environment, neglecting fish farming cages and other equipment, leaving them exposed and susceptible to weather conditions. In September 2020, Ianos, a hurricane-force storm caused the tons of industrial type of plastic pipes, fishing nets, nylon ropes, concrete blocks, plastic buoys, large rusty metal pieces and all kinds of waste to be carried away, later to be found floating on the surface of the sea, laying on the seabed and on the beaches. The pollution of the area has had immeasurable consequences for the marine ecosystem and the local community.

© George Lilas / Odyssey Outdoor Activities

(c) George Lilas/ Odyssey Outdoor Activities

© George Lilas / Odyssey Outdoor Activities

The Solution

The contemporary journey to Ithaca involves a team of 40, most of them volunteers including 20 divers, modern day heroes whose mission it is to fight for a better world, against all obstacles, by cleaning up seas and oceans, benefiting marine life and humanity.

When Healthy Seas learned about the devastation, we decided to mobilise all our forces, bringing together environmentalists, local authorities, and sponsors and make our journey. With support from Hyundai Motor Europe, we organised our biggest cleanup operation to-date to restore the beautiful island and to help the locals. We were not alone in this endeavour. Technical volunteer divers from the Ghost Diving Foundation travelled to Ithaca from the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Lebanon and Croatia to lead the underwater cleanup efforts, joining forces with local divers from Greece. Together with sustainable fishing startup Enaleia, we organised beach cleanups. Kefalonia Fisheries, a company that operates on the nearby island, welcomed Healthy Seas’ invitation and supported the operation with logistics. Other local stakeholders were also strongly involved in the efforts, including Odyssey Outdoor Activities, Aquatic Dive Center, the Municipality of Ithaca and Prefecture of Ionian Islands. The entire project was held under the Auspice of the Hellenic Ministry of Maritime Affairs.

The recovered fishing nets will be regenerated by Aquafil, together with other nylon waste, into ECONYL® yarn, the basis for new sustainable products. In the framework of Enaleia’s Mediterranean Cleanup Project, the rest of the collected marine plastics will also be integrated into the circular economy.

On World Oceans Day (June 8th) we organised a public event to bring attention to the issue of marine litter, ghost nets and the importance of clean and healthy seas and engage the local community. The programme included a welcome from the Mayor of Ithaca and activities for children and adults, like arts/crafts and the Healthy Seas state-of-the-art Virtual Reality experience.