Tidal wave of litter risks choking Venice

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Venice wecomes 50,000 tourists a day. Photo: Andreas Solaro
12:53 CEST+02:00
Venice. The historic city goes by many names: it's the “city of bridges”, “the city of masks” and “the city of canals”. But perhaps a more fitting name would be “the city of rubbish”.

On Monday a project called Don't Waste Venice started its ambitious attempts to monitor and improve the quality of Venice's waterways. What they found only underscored the degradation of the city's famous canals.

The team navigated 7km of the canals by boat, but it was far from a romantic gondola ride. The project fished out a whopping 500 pieces of floating litter from the waters: that's one piece every 13 meters.

The survey was carried out with the help of the Italian Environmental League and an EU project that seeks to rid the Adriatic coast of abandoned fishing gear.

Luigi Lazzaro, President of the Venetian Enviromental League told that he wasn't surprised by what had been found. “Marine litter is an underrated problem for a city like Venice, whose relationship with the water is emblematic,” he said.

Finds from the short boat trip included discarded cans, bottles, cigarette buts and floating plastic bags. According to the results of the survey, an estimated 87 percent of the junk clogging up the waters of Venice is non-biodegradable plastic.

The project's aim is clear – monitor the litter situation and improve it by promoting good practices among the residents of Venice and the 50,000 tourists who pass through the city every day.

The old adage “take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints” is not just something that applies to visits to the countryside; it applies to our cities too.

But it is not just the responsibility of holidaymakers.

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“Obviously the local government needs to finally face up to the problem of waste management and collection and propose innovative solutions,” Lazzaro said.

Current EU coast and marine policy targets want all member states to have waters with “good environmental status” by 2020 – so Venice has just five years to clean up its act. 

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