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#Barforthesea, a model of plastic-free sustainability for the Sardinian and Mediterranean sea

"The change was gradual. Step by step we were introducing the good practices when the MEDSEA Foundation contacted us. We grabbed the chance. The result was amazing, both for the enthusiastic participation of our customers as for the volume of plastic we’ve been able to eliminate. Before we filled two large bins every day. During the summer they stayed empty" says Mauro Marongiu. Summer is a distant memory. On the large windows of the Twist kiosk the rain beats incessantly. Where the beach declines the storm has created a small lake that stops on the access walkway. The Poetto seafront is deserted except for the rare, slow passing of buses. "All the staff participated in the broadcast of the new philosophy", adds the owner of the historic Cagliari kiosk.

"#Barforthesea" was born in June thanks to an initiative of the MEDSEA foundation and "Parley for the Oceans", a US environmental organization active worldwide in the protection of the marine ecosystems. By signing a memorandum, some of the owners of the catering activities that mark the long arc of the southern Sardinian seaboard are committed to reducing, with the support of MEDSEA experts, the use of plastic from their venues, vanguards of human activities on the coast and potentially among the best allies of the marine environment. The kiosks thus become not only models of a productive process sensible to environmental needs, but places of diffusion for a new way of experiencing the relationship with the sea in one of the most beautiful scenarios in the whole Mediterranean basin. In June, MEDSEA and Parley inaugurated the project with "Puliamo la Sella", a day in which many associations and at least two hundred volunteers worked together to free from plastic the promontory with which the beach commences. At present, eight are the kiosks involved in #Bar for the sea. A panel standing at the entrance certifies the affiliation.

The data emerging from the July-August two-month period are extremely important. Explains Vanessa Melas, environmental economist of MEDSEA: “Savings is striking even when only one kiosk is considered. The Palmette, for example, can boast of having avoided the use of 700 kg of plastic. But it is the overall figure that really creates an image of the obtained results. Considered on average 1570 covers per day, the non-use of plastic can be quantified in more than 3,5 tons, or in 91.474.92 cubic meters. Considering that the large plastic island of the Pacific has reached a density close to 100 kg of plastic per km2, our 3,659.00 kg equals almost 36.59 km2. We could say that we have avoided the ‘formation’ of an area with the same extension of two Sardinian islands, La Maddalena and Caprera, or more than 3,500 football fields".

"The plastic issue now has a global dimension, and we had already begun to question ourselves on the most appropriate way to join the general feeling. But the clearest indications came from foreign tourists, who are very attentive to the problem. They grimaced, sometimes they complained", explains Alessandro Cogoni, owner of the Otium, the Aurora and the Sella del Diavolo. Here the plastic for takeaway products has been replaced by cardboard, wooden spoons for coffee and ice creams or, for cocktails, by biodegradable PLA. The tiny bags containing oil and vinegar remain, although customers are asked to dress their dishes over the counter. During the table service plastic has been completely eliminated. "Never had a problem with customers - states Cogoni. Now we want to offer dispensed water in canteens. We are thinking about the proper way to do it, but I think it will work".

"Initially, I noticed a bit of perplexity in the customers," says Michele Marci, owner of the Miraggio, "especially for the water sold in the tetrapack or in the can. But we had already started the practice of containing the use of plastic independently, and in a short time these were assimilated and appreciated. We are part of a global phenomenon, and we must do everything to reduce the use of plastic as much as we can. We must set an example”.

The Oasis Cafè can be considered a veteran in the fight against plastic: "We started two years ago - says the owner, Luciano Spiga - and before the spontaneous marriage with MEDSEA Foundation we had only water bottles and straws, now replaced with PLA, to get rid of. Only the sachets for sauces, sugar and breadsticks remain, for they’re compulsory by law. If we make the old consumption as 100, 70% has been replaced by the returnable empties, the remaining 30% by cans”. The customers' response was unexpected: youngsters attend the Oasis curious to drink canned water. Tourists are delighted to find so much attention to the environment, and once the new approach is explained to them, also locals happily adapt. "We have not recorded additional costs. The material has simply transformed. I think we should be rewarded by the municipal administration for this commitment, for example through a fairer calculation of waste taxes. But I'm sure it will come", concludes Spiga.

"If there are additional expenses, they are compensated by good marketing, with the feeling of doing something positive for our community", says Antonio Congera of the Capolinea, whom we meet in the first sunny morning following the long days of bad weather which caused so much damage in Italy and the throughout the Mediterranean. A school in Cagliari, engaged by a Bolognese environmental association, chose his kiosk as the basis for a clean-up. Fifty schoolchildren have collected two large bags of rubbish scattered over the beach, some of which has been used to create small art objects. "Between June and September we reduced the use of plastics by 70%, we gave water bottles and activated the sale of dispensed water”, explains Congera, who concludes: "What my colleagues and I started with #Barforthesea is very important. We must look beyond, commit ourselves, improve at all costs. We owe it to our children”.

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