L-Ahrax tal-Mellieha

On Sunday 30th April, the  Zibel community, gathered at L-Irdum tal-Madonna site at L-Aħrax tal-Mellieħa for their second coastal clean-up. Owing to the positive response from the previous successful clean up at F’omm ir Riħ Bay, the increasing public interest naturally warranted a larger and more frequented site.  Encouraged blatant comments and posts seemed to identify L-Aħrax as a calamitous site that led the team to scout the area and affirmed that this was indeed in dire need of attention. This place is one of Malta’s richest Natura 2000 protected sites. These sites contain the most threatened habitats and species in Europe, particularly a colony of around 500 pairs of Yelkouan Shearwaters that breed annually every spring, therefore, it is imperative to keep this site free from litter! Unfortunately, most people who go to l-Aħrax to supposedly enjoy and re-connect with nature end up leaving it in a worse state than it originally was. To gather more traction the Professional Diving Schools Association was contacted to engage divers to dedicate their time to concurrently coordinate a marine clean up that covered Mellieħa Bay. Onion sacks were provided to the divers to ease marine litter collection.

With the location confirmed, team Zibel went ahead, planned and organised the whole event in collaboration with other NGO’s such as Valletta 2018 - European Capital of Culture- Friends of the Earth Malta - BirdLife Malta - fish4tomorrow - Sharklab-Malta, PDSA. In the days running up to the event the schedule and necessary details such as how to separate waste found on site, bring your own bottle/cup and please wear sunscreen and protective clothing were posted on the facebook event page. Blank event organiser also wanted to get on board and help this green initiative and organically motivated people to attend our clean up by giving out free tickets to its sold out awesome party held that same day.

The meeting headquarters was located at the edge of L-Aħrax tal-Madonna chapel, where everyone gathered for the morning brief and delicious sandwiches combined with iced coffee were kindly sponsored and served by Mediterranean Culinary Academy to give us the energy boost we needed for the day ahead. After this the volunteers were all handed out a pair of durable and reusable gloves kindly sponsored by Big Mat Malta and 3 types of bags donated to us by Cleansing Directorate Services, GreenPak Ltd. (Green recycling bags) and Mellieħa Local Council (grey recycling bags) for a systematic waste separation system. (Sam to post Graphic)

Over 100 people showed up, the exact count was hard to keep track of as people would show up at later times due to prior engagements but friends, families, colleagues, hunters, foreigners and lots of awesome people who decided that on this day, cleaning up our countryside was a priority! With our satisfied taste buds, high spirits and shiny smiles, the community was segregated into 3 groups accompanied by a Żibel leader to guide them to their locations the clean-up started to cover the three existing zone at L-Aħrax, Zone A, B, C (two of are designated camping zones). San Michel who sponsored the event with their water dispensers were strategically located at the respective zones together with wheely bins for diverse types of heavy-duty waste (mainly construction, inert waste and rusty metal scraps). The Grassyhopper also sponsored the event with scrumptious and wholesome energy balls, carrot cake and banana bread to volunteers after they had finished cleaning or simply wanted to take a break. The Cleansing Directorate Services (CSD) sent a truck driver to be present on site at noon that drove up and down to transport the litter from the different zones and eventually collected all the general waste that was found.

Needless to say, being the eve of a public holiday, stretched over a long weekend, the site was full of campers (some of which were extremely organised in their set up and actually barricaded themselves off using netting and rented portable toilets) which hindered the activity somewhat, however the site had more than enough litter to keep our volunteers occupied! Shockingly enough members of the Zibel were threatened by campers when they politely asked to responsibly dispose of wooden pallets which were clearly being used as firewood in a Natura 2000 protected site.

In zone B, just off the cliff face there were dumped bulky domestic appliances and the entire body of a vehicle so a brave few descended to facilitate their collection via a crane sponsored by Imex Ltd (380 kg). All kinds of trash mainly construction waste, various pieces of rusted metal debris, broken glass adding up to a total of 4.6 t, 2.8 t collected from the Mellieħa Bay marine clean up, 2.6 t of general waste collected from land and 330 kg sent to recycling plants was collected and correctly separated into the skips located at the main headquarters 3 of which coordinated by Mellieħa Local council and one large skip full of metal waste by WasteServ. GreenPak sent a truck to collect all recyclable materials and transport them to private recycling plants. All the data was obtained from the respective entities involved and summed up to a substantial total of 10.71 t.

It appears that a lot of effort is invested to organise these camping trips, a group who actually came to deposit an enormous pile of wooden scrap pallets days before the weekend – you literally see these people arriving with their vehicles jam-packed with their ‘essential items’ for camping. The baffling part is that this raw connection to nature culminates in dumping litter or not even bothering to take a bag full of trash to the appropriate allocated sites for waste collection.

No recycling bins or bags were present on site, in fact most volunteers gave out recycling bags to the people camping there to propagate some waste management principles!

This really turned out to be a laborious and full-blown clean up that involved a lot of collaboration and effort from a lot of different bodies, organisations and companies and we are so thankful that everyone cooperated so efficiently. It really does remind us how important teamwork is and that power comes in numbers of people. We feel totally empowered and inspired!