Festa season is now solidly in full swing in Malta, with various villages all over the islands taking festivities to the streets for beautifully colourful celebrations. And while some have added environmentally-aware measures to long-standing traditions, others have instead drawn the ire of activists online. Last weekend, one such feast was that of the seaside town of Gżira.
“Plastic showers in 2018 that end up in our seas,” a Facebook post that has been steadily going viral read on Sunday morning. The post was accompanied by photos and videos of a blanket of white and blue plastic confetti covering the promenade. Inevitably, however, in between the feast’s location, the confetti’s sheer number and their tendency to be easily blown away, some ended up right in the sea. And of course, we all know how harmful and long-lasting plastic’s effect can be on the world’s seas. “Unbelievable,” the Facebook post finished off.
Soon enough, a number of people joined the conversation. Hundreds of reactions and even more shares later, many users condemned the choice to use the plastic confetti.
“They should make it out of rice paper or something that is good for fish food,” one user commented, while others suggested even a simple shift to paper from junk mail (which is widely used in other Maltese localities) would be better.
One comment added that there was “nothing traditional about pollution”, and many people called the video a “textbook case of littering,” claiming that the law is very clear on the matter and, as such, a hefty fine should be imposed. According to a couple of comments, the mess still hadn’t been cleaned the following afternoon, at which point it was virtually impossible to fully retrieve all the plastic confetti that made it to the sea.
Within two hours of the original post, members of the growing Facebook group Malta Clean Up started offering their own suggestions to a better way of celebrating the annual feast without such long-lasting negative effects on the environment. Among these was Malta Clean Up admin and organiser Camilla Appelgren, who pushed for a shift in mentality while appealing for unity.
“Traditions and green movement, please unite for God’s sake,” Appelgren said in a detailed Facebook post. “Littering is something that affects us all, hence you should start having a green festa in mind while planning. A festa 2.0, the version where you care for the future and for the environment.”
Appealing to the island’s festa organising committees, Camilla went on to suggest a couple of choices which she believes need to happen for feasts to be more environmentally conscious. “The balloon releases (try to clean those up if you can and the plastic confetti (who came up with the idea of it?!) have to stop,” the environmentalist said. “There are alternatives and you should consider them, now rather than later.”
“I love festas and having fun, so don’t see me as a party pooper,” Camilla finished. “Instead, see me as someone that cares for our country and the sea that surrounds us. Someone that is tired of cleaning up the mess.”
Camilla’s post attracted a large number of comments from various people, including Partit Demokratiku’s MP Godfrey Farrugia. “I am a known festa enthusiast and have publically supported and assisted this intangable heritage,” Farrugia said. “However I fully agree with your statement. We must not remain silent on single use plastics.”