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Marlena Ćukteraš Marlena Ćukteraš

INTERVIEW - Marlena Ćukteraš - Working for a greener plastic-free future in Dubrovnik

Written by  Aug 17, 2019

Green Sea Safari is a Dubrovnik-based, non-profit organisation that has one main goal: to clean trash and other waste from the planet's seas and coastline. This extremely worthy idea was started just two and a half years ago by three friends, Marlena Ćukteraš, Maro Carević and Alen Redžović. We caught up with Marlena this week to see what her inspirations were to get involved in this project and what their aims are.

“We pretty much decided the idea over a coffee, as many things are decided in Dubrovnik,” commented Marlena. But don’t let this relaxed attitude hide a determined ambition to clean up the seas of Dubrovnik and to educate people along the way. They have managed to attract some great sponsors and have made great leaps in preserving Dubrovnik’s marine nature but they also need your help. According to the Green Sea Safari website Marlena is a physicist, a biologist, a marine scientist, and environmentalist, we would also add a very positive example for all of us to follow.

Lots of people are aware of plastic polluting the seas but very few actually get involved in doing something to change the situation. Why were you so determined to make a real difference?

Somebody has to start. I don’t really look at it as cleaning the seas, although it can be hard work I absolutely enjoy what I am doing. When you know that you are doing something useful, not just for yourself but also for the widen community and above all for nature and the planet then its isn’t difficult at all. We have to think of the future generations. I am a professor at RIT University in Dubrovnik and I am aware of the younger generations every day at work. Just like anything in life the first step is the hardest. Once I started, or rather once we all started, then every day, every journey became more enjoyable. We all have a duty to learn how to recycle. Education is important, and not only for the younger generations but for everyone. In fact, teaching the older generations is equally as important as the younger ones.


You run daily safari cleaning action every day during the summer months. And these are of course open to both tourists and locals. Even though these trips take people to more hidden areas of our coastline is it hard to find “volunteers” to help you?

Our Green Seas Safari tours last all day so it is just a matter of people actually finding the spare time to join us. Our tours are completely free for all visitors. People take food and drink with them, or if they want we stop at a restaurant on an island and make a day of it. We start at 9.30 in the morning and we return at around 5 in the afternoon. We’ve had guests of all ages and all nationalities. And they all have a passion to make the seas clean, our seas clean. I think our oldest guest so far was in his seventies. If people want to get involved all the info is on our website. We welcome everyone.


Are you surprised, or shocked, with the sheer amount of plastic waste that you find? You go to places around the coastline that aren’t normally cleaned by the public cleaning company, so you find at first-hand what the sea is polluted with.

As a scientist I have to say that unfortunately I am not that shocked, although my friends and colleagues often are. When I look at the situation from a scientific angle then the reasons are obvious. For my final graduation study I covered many of the reason why the Adriatic is suffering from plastic pollution. One of the reasons is the flow of water. A large amount of water flows into the Adriatic from the Neretva River, however over the decades more and more hydroelectric power plants have been built on this river meaning that the flow of water into the Adriatic Sea is much less. Before when the Neretva’s fresh water flowed into the Adriatic without hindrance it literally pushed all the waste away from the Croatian coastline. Now the flow is lower the current has changed and lots of the waste is now floating to us from all over the Mediterranean.



What percentage of the plastic waste that you find originates from Croatia?

It is hard to give an exact percentage but I would estimate that a large majority of the plastic waste that we find doesn’t originate from Croatia. Even though many of the bottle and other items don’t have a label on them anymore I can see from the look of the bottle that they aren’t from Croatia. It also needs to be said that a large percentage of the plastic waste we find is medical waste. We don’t really know where this comes from. During our trips with guests we pull out up to 15 bags of plastic waste.



Dubrovnik has a problem with plastic waste when the south winds blow at certain times of the year and it would seem that lots of this waste comes from Albania. Is this your experience?

Yes, it is true a large part of the plastic waste we find originates from Albania. The currents and winds bring it to Dubrovnik at times of the year. Albania isn’t a member of the European Union and their laws and regulations surrounding plastic waste, and recycling in general, aren’t as strict or as effective as they should be. Don’t get me wrong these kind of bad practises used to happen in Croatia, they have only changed due to awareness and education, plus of course European and national laws.

How can visitors of Dubrovnik, or in fact anyone reading this, actually help your organisation?

Firstly, I need to point out that we really love what we do. What we really need is some kind of support, financial support that will assist us to not only survive but also and more importantly, to expand to other coasts in Croatia. The only reason that we haven’t moved on to other reasons is financial. The costs of fuel, the skipper and other costs involved are restrictive for us, unfortunately. We would love to get a major company onboard as a general sponsor, that would seriously help us. Of course people do donate, and we welcome all donations. If people, your readers, want to donate then we would be extremely grateful.

You can help this worthy cause

Go to the Green Sea Safari website and find out how you can assist this great project - Annual membership is only 300 Kunas and all that money will be invested into a green and plastic free future.
And if you want to donate (and please do) to this worthy non-profit organisation then simply follow this link - Thank you in advance!