Each month the City Friends Club visits an area of Limassol – city, beach or mountain - to clear it of rubbish. Karen Tayor joins in

After a long week at work with a heatwave peaking with record-breaking temperatures, the call of the sea at the weekend can be strong. But for some the plunge has to wait until the beach, the trees surrounding it and the path leading to it have be scoured.

These people are volunteers working with the City Friends Club NGO to clean up areas of Limassol on a monthly basis, some coming from as far away as Nicosia and Paphos, and one even on his birthday.

On June 8 it was the turn of Kanayio beach, nestled between the port and the new marina, to be cleared of rubbish.

This is the second time the beach has been cleaned in this way, and after the first time some small illegal buildings were pulled down after a complaint to the municipality.

On Saturday volunteers collected recyclables, other rubbish and some rather surprising bulky items, which are sorted and disposed of separately. And despite the heat there were around 70 of them.

One wore a Tshirt summing up the attitude of those present: ‘Cyprus has the cleanest waters in Europe, let’s give it the cleanest land’.

On arrival they are given litter pickers, gloves, water and bags to sort the rubbish into. As Saturday was extremely hot, volunteers were also provided with suncream and youngsters with water pistols to mark World Ocean Day, although those present were more interested in picking up rubbish than engaging in a water fight.

City Friends Club’s first clean up was held in December 2021 in Foinikaria, a popular picnic spot that always accumulates a lot of rubbish. In 2022, City Friends Club conducted 17 cleanups, and in 2023 that rose to 22. Those organised this year include a clean up of the streets immediately after the Limassol carnival.

The biggest ever was near one of the town’s Green Points when five tons of rubbish was picked in two hours.

“One person can make big changes,” says clean up manager Inga. “Each person doing something can change the place.” She said the organisation is always on the lookout for places to clean up although it is not always as simple as that, they have to be accessible, safe and have enough room for 50+ people to trample over them.

As usual, volunteer Marat was on site – he has never missed a clean up since joining in on the first or second one organised. “We moved to Cyprus six years ago and one of the first things that caught my eye was rubbish on the highway. I love Cyprus but the rubbish was one of my concerns”.

But he is determined to make a change however small. “The wind brings rubbish too but you cannot change the minds of one million people in one day”.

Among all the “bad smelling, unpleasant looking” things he has found, Maret says one of the strangest items was an unopened bottle of expensive wine.

Fellow volunteer Kristina Gubareva has also regularly attended clean ups when in the country. “It is very important to keep the place clean and safe for the environment and the people. The clean ups are a good way to protect the environment.”

Ludmilla has brought her eight-year-old son Etofa for the first time. “For Cyprus, rubbish is a big problem,” she says, “but if people see others cleaning up after them they might at least not throw things on the ground.” Meanwhile, her son is keen on protecting the sea creatures he has learnt about at school. “The sea is beautiful and we have to maintain it to protect the turtles,” he says.

Fellow volunteer Veronica, who has lived in Cyprus for two years, says she has missed only one clean up session this season, and has today collected three black bags of rubbish and half a bag of recyclables. “In Limassol you see a lot of rubbish,” she says, “in the streets and in the fields”.

And the strangest item she has found while picking rubbish? “An engagement ring”.

Most of the volunteers come often, City Friends Club CEO Natalia Mutovkina says, although some people did turn up for the first time on Saturday.

Although City Friends Club is Limassol-based it has in the last few weeks spread out to Paphos too. The first clean up in the west of the island did not attract that many volunteers but Mutovkina expects the community there to grow as well, to around 100 people.

“We hope to expand further,” she adds, “we are a charity but if we have the support we will expand”.

Mutovkina is also hoping Sunday’s elections for new local authorities will signal a change for the better in the disposal of rubbish. “Municipalities will be changing, rubbish collection organisation will be changing. We have to hope it will be better”.

But for now the clean ups will target different areas one at a time, leaving a cleaner Limassol behind.

On Saturday over 100 black bin bags of rubbish were collected in addition to 38 of recyclables plus bulky items including wood, a panel door and a sunlounger. Strangest item found on the beach? A large Tupperware full of a cut up watermelon.