From: Alice Taylor
Belgian NGO River Cleanup Arrive in Albania to Help Remove Plastic

Belgian non-profit River Cleanup is in Albania to take part in a cleanup of the Ishem River which will take place on 15 May at 12 pm.

Every year, more than 8 billion kilograms of plastic rubbish end up in the world’s oceans. Almost all of this comes from rivers which flow into the sea. In fact, the city of Tirana is the fourth biggest contributor of waste plastic to the Mediterranean Sea, despite not being located on the coast.

According to the IUCN “The Mediterranean: Mare plasticum” report, it leaks 1,123 tonnes of waste into the sea every year. Albania overall is estimated to be responsible for leaking 10,000 tonnes of plastic into the Sea every year.

River Cleanup aims to not only conduct cleanups to prevent plastic from getting to the sea, but also want to raise awareness about plastic, recycling, and waste.

“Rivers are the blue arteries of our planet. However, many of the world’s rivers and streams are severely affected by pollution, with plastic being one of the major culprits. To limit the amount of plastic pollution beyond the reach of collection and recycling that enters our oceans, we must remove it before it gets there,” their website states.

They add that they believe in educating people, transforming companies, and actively cleaning up rivers as an effective way to stop plastic pollution from polluting the environment.

The NGO has joined forces with Alben Kola, a local environmental activist and a renowned tour guide, to organize another cleanup in the country. Over the last few weeks, there have been three large citizen-led cleanups, one on Lake Komani, another at Lake Fierza, and one organized by a different group at the beach in Durres.

The team from River Cleanup arrived in Albania from Brussels yesterday. During their visit, they will be meeting with activists, journalists, environmental groups, and government stakeholders.

The Ishem River is up to 79km long and is formed by three other rivers, The Tirane, The Terkuze, and The Zeze. It meets the Adriatic Sea in the town of Ishem. Unfortunately, The Tirane and the Lane that both feed into the Ishem are seriously polluted by wastewater from industry and the capital of Tirana.

Analysis has shown that quantities of ammonia, nitrogen, and suspended solids, far in excess of EU standards are found in the river. Furthermore, at its mouth, the river gives off a bad smell and deposits wastewater, plastic, and other pollutants into the area which in turn, threatens an important sea turtle breeding area.

Albania does not have any proper recycling facilities, even at a governmental level. Instead, the government has invested heavily in waste incinerators and landfills.