Volunteers clear plastic debris from a beach along the Mediterranean Sea in Greece.
Lefteris Bastakis grew up on Crete, a Greek island in the Mediterranean Sea known for ancient ruins, sandy beaches, and delicious olives. He swam before he could walk, and his childhood revolved around the clear, blue waters of the sea.
Today, he sees a different picture, as he walks along a coastline of the same Mediterranean, sifting through discarded plastic bottles, food packaging, paper, and other trash.
“This sea is one of the most endangered bodies of water in the world,” Bastakis says. “It’s in real danger from the pollution that is coming from all around the land.”
Every year, more than 230,000 tons of plastic is dumped into the Mediterranean, with 80% of that coming from land sources. The United Nations Environment Program says single-use plastics such as water bottles and plastic bags make up more than 60% of litter on Mediterranean beaches. As that plastic decomposes in the water, it breaks up into microplastics, which are eaten by marine life and, eventually, us.
Not content to stand by, Lefteris and his wife, Hana Pertot, are taking action. They founded Keep Sea Blue, a non-profit group that organizes the collection, recycling and re-use of plastic waste found around Mediterranean coastlines. Keep Sea Blue works with volunteers, local authorities, and other NGOs that pick up discarded plastics around Mediterranean coastlines. Bottles, containers, and cups are then sent to recycling facilities to be washed and broken into flakes and pellets, then and trucked away again to be re-used in packaging or other products.
Lefteris Bastakis and his wife, Hana Pertot, created Keep Sea Blue to facilitate the collection, recycling and re-use of plastic waste collected near the Mediterranean.
Each step of the process is logged on Keep Sea Blue’s customized blockchain platform, powered by Oracle Blockchain technology, which follows the journey a bottle collected from the shore makes as it’s turned into a new product such as a container for fruit, vegetables and fish.
“All of us have an obligation,” says Bastakis. “The real problem lies with how we handle plastics. If we consider plastic as a tool of packaging, and we recycle it properly, then we can use it continuously. But that’s not happening right now.”
Bastakis’ experience in logistics and recycling—he owns a recycling facility outside Athens—meant Keep Sea Blue could immediately begin operating as a model for governments and environmental groups.
|“Blockchain technology validates and verifies the information that is being shared by different parties.”|
|—Maria Karka, Keep Sea Blue Operations Manager|
The ultimate objective is preventing waste from ever entering the Mediterranean. Each month, 150 tons of plastic, or about 5 million bottles, are collected and registered on Keep Sea Blue’s blockchain platform.
Because every step is recorded and tracked, blockchain provides full transparency and traceability across the journey of plastics, from the coast to the shelf of a supermarket, says Maria Karka, operations manager at Keep Sea Blue.
Oracle Blockchain runs as a service on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and allows people along the so-called plastic supply chain—collectors, recyclers, manufacturers, and brand owners—to see where a given bale of plastic came from and what was made with it. Users can make their own entries about what they did with that material, while keeping all previous entries visible and protected in a tamper-resistant ledger.
“Blockchain technology validates and verifies the information that is being shared by different parties,” says Karka. “It guarantees the validity of trusted information to be shared by parties that work together.”
Karka’s role at Keep Sea Blue is to develop partnerships with each participant in this plastics supply chain. Increasingly, she says, brands are keen to show employees and customers they are doing their part in protecting the environment and offering sustainable products.
Lefteris Bastakis at a Greek recycling plant, amid plastic waste recovered from areas around the Mediterranean.
With 22 countries sharing the Mediterranean’s coastline, efforts are increasingly being made to protect the health of the sea, by non-profits like Keep Sea Blue and at the cross-border level. Late last year, the European Union and countries bordering the sea signed a new strategy aiming to “achieve a healthy, clean, sustainable, and climate resilient Mediterranean Sea.” It also spells out rules on sulphur emissions for ships using the sea.
In Greece, Bastakis remains hopeful the tide of plastics into his beloved Mediterranean can be significantly reduced, with help from blockchain technology.
“We want our work to be open and transparent, so the people can see what is happening, and then they will trust in recycling and get involved” he says. “I want my children to enjoy the sea as I did. There is a long way to go, but I’m optimistic we will get there.”
Photography: Kristen Schweizer/Oracle
Kristen Schweizer is an Oracle content lead and writer. She was previously a journalist for Bloomberg and Reuters.