This single use-plastic has created an unconscious “disposable” lifestyle and is resulting in huge environmental issues. Plastic is actually a valuable resource and plastic pollution is an unnecessary and unsustainable waste of it.

The world slowly seems to be wising up to the harm people are doing to the planet, though not nearly as fast as we are doing anything about it. A young Maltese trio, Ghislaine Calleja, Sam Degaetano and Andrew Schembri, tired of seeing Malta’s natural gems fall to ruin to litter, set up an eNGO, #Żibel, to help conserve and keep some of Malta’s most beautiful places, her beaches, and the limited countryside, clean.Vida October 2017

While local councils deal with cleaning of their own areas there are many remote locations that do not fall under local councils, and though popular with the public, do not have anyone responsible for keeping them clean. This is where #Żibel comes in – the trio  organise clean ups with an added sense of adventure. Join a clean up and you can find yourself snorkelling for rubbish or kayaking around some beautiful bays –  one thing for sure is you’re bound to meet lots of likeminded people with plenty of energy and passion for the environment.

What Inspired the Creation of #Żibel?  

The eNGO, #Żibel has been in operation for just over six months now. The organisation was born out of a passion for spending time outdoors, connecting with nature and realising what a detrimental state our environment is in, both on land and at sea. Land and marine pollution tend to differ. Generally we find large amounts of bulky waste on land such as
domestic appliances, shattered chassis of vehicles and a lot of construction and domestic waste.

A trip to one of Malta’s Natura 2000 protected wooded areas, Mizieb, inspired the beginning of this eNGO – after dedicating an afternoon to cleaning up the rural area to find that it was currently being used as a dumping site including items ranging from construction waste to household and copious amounts of general litter left over from picnics. Since this is public and popular picnic site, the local council is not responsible for collecting rubbish and managing such an area. The cleansing department only met our concerns with ‘we will file your complaint’. These protected, endemic sites are clearly lacking any form of management and are in dire need of attention and conservation. We are losing our
indigenous biodiversity, both flora and fauna, at a very fast rate!

How Often Do You Organise Clean Ups? 

A large community clean up occurs every month, but we team up on weekly basis with other environmental activists to adventure and advocate change. It’s difficult to say
how much and what rubbish we find as it generally differs depending on location. For example, bays such as Fomm ir-Rih and Paradise Bay are very good indicators of marine
debris. To date we have collected well over 30 tonnes of litter, with L-Ahrax being the biggest clean up and bringing in 11 tonnes of waste!Vida October 2017

Many of the Clean Ups Are Close to the Sea Or Involve Cleaning Up the Sea Itself. Why is the Sea so Important to You?

I am a water sign and practically live in the sea during the long summer months!” To quote Dr Sylvia Earl – “No water – NO life!” It’s such a shame to go snorkelling and diving to discover how much aquatic life is diminishing and seems to be replaced by litter and microplastic. It’s been estimated that annually, eight million tons of plastic are being dumped into our seas! This single use-plastic has created an unconscious “disposable” lifestyle and is resulting in huge environmental issues. Plastic is actually a valuable resource and plastic pollution is an unnecessary and unsustainable waste of it.

How Do Volunteers Participate?

Vida October 2017Volunteers are encouraged to take a pledge to become a Żiblu or a Żibla through our website., (that way they join our mailing list) however we gain a lot of traction organically through our Facebook page and events are always created and shared through our page. We try and keep our clean ups fun for everyone involved by organising some kind of adventure activity, like snorkelling or
kayaking. We try to get all our equipment sponsored or heavily reduced and so far we have managed to keep volunteers from paying for equipment as companies who rent these things seem to appreciate what we do and want to support us in some way or another.

Who Generally Participates in Clean Ups? 

The majority of our volunteers end up being expats, and at every large community clean up we always end up having tourists – that’s right people who are here on holiday join in and
lend a helping hand! Unfortunately local participation is still not quite what we would like.

Is There Any Government Support? 

Shortcomings from local councils are due to their limited resources. These face an enormous task in cleaning up their own communities. And even then, the boundary lines between localities have created a lot of grey areas, where nobody claims
responsibility over a remote location. Through our marketing there has been a spike in awareness and we have been in contact with a few governmental authorities. The Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) have met with us and expressed their concerns, which are in unison with ours. Therefore they have decided to support us in identifying areas that need rehabilitation and other activities. At the end of the day tourism heavily depends on the state of our country! Environment and Resource Authority (ERA) have also been helpful and want us to organise a clean up at Lippija tower which they will be funding soon.

Do You Think That There is an Educational Issue in Malta With Regards to Littering? 

Clearly there is! I feel like we have missed years of education on proper waste and resource management and disposal. We lament over what happened to Xummiemu – he was such a great role model for us during our schooling years. We are in the process of embarking on educational workshops and activities in schools, institutions and also at
a corporate level. That being said, our clean ups end up being educational as we are always experiencing and learning new things about the state of our environment, so we do encourage people to join, as hands-on experience is the best education one can get! We also share content on social media and encourage people to ask us questions where
we can give advice about sustainability and minimising the impact our daily lives have on the planet.

Where Do You See #Żibel Going?

#Żibel will only grow if the community strives to work for one common goal – a cleaner and healthier Malta. Unfortunately not many people seem to care that we are so blessed with gorgeous blue skies and pristine blue waters on these stunning islands in the middle of the Mediterranean. In fact we tend to take this for granted and heavily neglect what lies
at our doorstep. It is extremely hard to mobilise the public to action positive change but we won’t give up and will keep trying! The world is changing. People are becoming more
aware of the damage they themselves are causing. Malta may be a bit slower to catch on but we have hope.Vida October 2017

© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Rachel Zammit Cutajar