You can drink the water out of the tap almost everywhere in Greece. It's clean, safe and tastes fine. But, like elsewhere in the world, bottled water is ubiquitous, and Greek consumption is growing. Every tourist restaurant we've visited on this trip has automatically brought out a large plastic bottle of water. Multiply that by 30 million visitors a year, plus all the local consumption, and that's a lot of water bottles.
You hear about the problems of worldwide plastic waste all the time in the media, but I admit I hadn't linked it to my Greek bottled water consumption until yesterday, when a walk along the rocky coast north of Methoni highlighted something that isn't unique to Greece, but is pretty horrible. (Click across below for three debris bottle shots)
Thousands of plastic bottles washed up on the rocks. OK, it wasn't just plastic bottles - there were also jandals/flip flops and plenty of polystyrene. Also the odd area affected by past Mediterranean oil spills. But the plastic bottle debris was the worst. The great Greek plastic bottle garbage patch. And the closer we got to Methoni, the worse it got.
One of the problems, apparently, is the Greeks aren't great at recycling. They've been fined for several years running by the European Union over their lacklustre attitude to responsible rubbish collection. But still, the green-lidded municipal bins all over town (where Greeks are supposed to take their recycling waste) are far more likely to be full of ordinary rubbish (and cats) than plastic bottles.
Instead, plastic bottles seem to get dumped. Sides of the road, the beach, the hillsides. The wind blows them about and when the rain comes, they get washed down into the sea. Then when there's a storm, they get thrown up onto the rather beautiful (in a rocky sort of way) stretch of coastline north of Methoni.
So I have launched my own tiny personal coastline clean up campaign. Pathetic really, but it makes me feel slightly better. Every time we go for a swim I take a bag and pick up rubbish from under the castle wall.
Here is this morning's haul. Actually, Geoff reckons he can use the white thing as a paint tray...