LIFE DEBAG - Integrated information and awareness campaign for the reduction of plastic bags in the marine environment

LIFE14 GIE/GR/001127

Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version  

Contact details:

Project Manager: George Papatheodorou
Email: gpapathe@upatras.gr

Project description:


Litter is a major problem for the marine environment, with plastic bags being one of the most common and persistent items. Each year, more than eight million plastic bags end up as litter in the EU. Current recycling rates are only 6.6%, which are difficult to increase because the thinness and lightness of plastic bags means they have a low recycling value. Plastic bags are blown by the wind and washed away by rain and snowmelt into rivers and drainage systems, eventually reaching the marine environment. Threats to marine life from bags, bottles and other plastic waste are due to ingestion and entanglement, causing direct physical damage and possibly toxicological harm. Over 267 animal species are known to suffer from entanglement and ingestion of marine debris, including 86% of sea turtles, 44% of seabirds, and 43% of marine mammals. Plastic waste also constitutes an aesthetic problem in tourist areas such as natural parks and beaches. Since over 80% of marine litter comes from land-based sources, preventing litter at source is very important. However, an integrated approach to tackling plastic waste is lacking, while ignorance remains of its environmental impacts. It is therefore crucial to inform consumers and to promote reusable bags as an alternative to single-use plastic bags.


The main objective of the LIFE DEBAG project was to develop and implement an integrated information and awareness-raising campaign for the prevention and reduction of plastic bag pollution in the marine environment. The aim was to change consumers behaviour. Specifically, the project aimed to improve the knowledge base and create awareness of the problem of plastic bag use and disposal at the national level, and to inform and educate the public on Syros island; ensure a sense of public ownership to build support for relevant measures; improve educational efforts directed towards teachers and pupils; and contribute to changing Greece to a sustainable society, starting with plastic bags.


LIFE DEBAG developed and implemented an integrated information and awareness-raising campaign for the reduction of plastic bag pollution in the marine environment, on a national level in Greece and on a local level on the Greek island of Syros.

On Syros, the project informed more than 41 000 visitors and 16 500 inhabitants of the problems caused by plastic bags in the marine environment, as well as measures to address the issue, for example, through factsheets at hotels and leaflets for the general public. The project team produced 12 000 reusable cotton bags, which were given for free to the local population. Local voluntary agreements to reduce the consumption of plastic bags were signed with 215 local shops in Syros. Educational events were held, such as beach clean-ups, and information materials produced for every school on the island.

The project conducted a rigorous assessment of the marine litter load on the island's beaches and seafloor using drones, towed underwater camera and underwater remote operated vehicles (ROV); results showed that, at the end of the project, the accumulation of plastic bags had decreased by 85% on the surveyed beaches and by 60% on the seafloor. This strongly indicates that an intensive awareness-raising campaign can have a tangible impact on the environment.

At the national level, the projects intensive information campaign, involving TV and radio spots, printed publications and electronic newsletters, and social media, reached approximately 600 000 people. A national voluntary agreement was reached with five supermarket chains (representing more than 50% of Greece's market share), with a variety of measures introduced to reduce plastic bag consumption. The project also organised seven stakeholder consultation forums that brought together for the first time all pertinent stakeholders in Greece. Through these forums, it contributed with a significant set of recommendations for the integration of the European Directive on reducing the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags (2015/720) into Greek legislation. These were incorporated in a Joint Ministerial Decision in 2017 that imposed a fee on single-use plastic bags from January 2018. After the fee, a 60%-80% plastic bag use reduction was noted in Greece after one year, according to the Hellenic Recycling Agency. Networking activities with 95 groups in Greece and six other EU countries took place. The project developed a Replication Handbook which summarises the steps interested parties can take for reducing consumption of plastic bags and other single-use plastic items. The project is also relevant to other EU legislation, such as the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC), and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (2008/56/EC).

The project expanded the OSPAR Marine Litter Beach Questionnaire to include a detailed plastic bag classification scheme. It also initiated the development and testing of an innovative marine litter monitoring protocol for the international scientific community, using technologies such as shallow benthic monitoring and aerial surveys using drones.

Significant long-term socio-economic benefits were identified, including: reduction of costs to local authorities for cleaning up plastic bag waste; benefits for shop owners due to reduced costs for plastic bags; increased attractiveness and touristic potential for Syros and municipalities that replicate the project; and benefits for commercial fishing due to reduced pollution of the marine environment. These are contingent on further replication of the measures for reducing plastic bag usage in Greece. Wider benefits arise from a cleaner marine environment for recreation, reduced plastic pollution along the food chain, and a more environmentally-aware society.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Information - Governance - Awareness raising - Information
Waste - Packaging and plastic waste


environmental education‚  consumption pattern‚  coastal area‚  waste reduction‚  plastic waste‚  marine pollution

Target EU Legislation

  • Waste
  • Directive 2008/98 - Waste and repealing certain Directives (Waste Framework Directive) (19.11.200 ...
  • Marine environment and Coasts
  • Directive 2008/56 - Framework for community action in the field of marine environmental policy (M ...

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator University of Patras
Type of organisation University
Description Oceanus-net, based at the University of Patras, is an interdisciplinary sea observatory, aiming to increase sustainability in Greek seas and inland waters. It involves five university research partners, and cooperates with national and international scientific institutions and NGOs. Oceanus-net maintains a database containing wide-ranging parameters for aquatic systems, to assess their conservation value. Activities include public training and environmental education, including campaigns involving marine litter.


Project reference LIFE14 GIE/GR/001127
Duration 01-SEP-2015 to 31-JAN -2019
Total budget 1,257,545.00 €
EU contribution 754,527.00 €
Project location Anatoliki Makedonia, Thraki(Ellas) Kentriki Makedonia(Ellas) Dytiki Makedonia(Ellas) Thessalia(Ellas) Ipeiros(Ellas) Ionia Nisia(Ellas) Dytiki Ellada(Ellas) Sterea Ellada(Ellas) Peloponnisos(Ellas) Attiki(Ellas) Voreio Aigaio(Ellas) Notio Aigaio(Ellas) Kriti(Ellas)


Read more:

Project web site Project's website
Project web site - 2 Project's Facebook page
Project web site - 2 Project's Twitter page
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan
Publication: Guidelines-Manual Replication handbook
Publication: Layman report Layman report (Greek version)
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Technical report Project's Final technical report
Video link LIFE DEBAG - Awareness can clean up our seas - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Imry4Uwmriw
Video link "Ας αφήσουμε τις πλαστικές σακούλες στο παρελθόν, όχι στις θάλασσές μας"(1')
Video link "Plastic bags hide natural beauty" (1')
Video link "Οι πλαστικές σακούλες σε 3 Ελληνικούς κόλπους" (1')
Video link "Άφησε τις πλαστικές σακούλες στο παρελθόν. Όχι στις θάλασσές μας" (2')
Video link LIFE DEBAG - Leave plastic bags in the past, not in our seas [EN, 0'49] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uU88V3A9W5w
Video link LIFE DEBAG Plastic bags in Greece - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8zngCTHbwE


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version