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  • Writer's pictureTSR2021

The world’s largest sailing ship race in Tallinn is fighting for a cleaner sea

  • The ringed seal Vidrik is set to save the Baltic Sea.

  • In April 2021, the first cigarette butt trash can track will be built on the Tallinn Culture Kilometer.

  • A cigarette butt is the most common small debris in the sea, the true final impact of which on the environment is unknown.

The world’s largest sailing ship race, which will arrive in Tallinn in July this year, will offer an impressive spectacle to the city’s residents and visitors but will also pay attention to the problem of pollution in the Baltic Sea. Today, a joint project of The Tall Ships Races Tallinn 2021 and the World Cleanup Day was launched, which focuses on the danger of cigarette butts in the Baltic Sea and as a result of which the first cigarette butt trash can track in Tallinn will be built. The patron of the information that has begun is the ringed seal Vidrik, who will continue to support activities related to the marine environment of Tallinn.

The Tall Ships Races Tallinn 2021 is a major event that, in addition to the grand spectacle and the offspring of young sailors, always raises the issue of the marine environment and its preservation under its auspices. According to Kati Remmelkoor, the project’s marketing and communication manager, in recent decades, the priority of Tallinn as a seaport has been the sea and the marine environment, which also supports the city’s image as a green capital. “The World Cleanup Day has been keeping the focus on small rubbish reaching the sea all over the world and in Estonia for several years. This year, too, a whole thematic block will be dedicated to the problem of cigarette butt rubbish at the Let’s Do It World Conference 2021. In this way, we also decided to give more impetus to their information, not only by talking about the dangers of cigarette butts in the Baltic Sea but by taking concrete steps,” said Remmelkoor. To this end, together with World Cleanup Day and the Tallinn Municipal Board, 50 trash cans will be installed on the Culture Kilometer in North Tallinn, which will increase awareness of the dangers of cigarette butts and hopefully significantly reduce the release of cigarette butts into the sea.

Mart Normet, the head of the World Cleanup Day Estonia campaign, states that cigarette butts are one of the most toxic types of waste in the world, but little has been said about them. It is also the largest amount of waste in the Baltic Sea, accounting for 67% of coastal waste. “One cigarette butt can poison up to 1,000 liters of water and decompose in the sea for up to 15 years,” Normet described its effects on the sea. “A cigarette butt is thought to be biodegradable, but in fact, the filter consists of plastic and contains toxins that contaminate marine biota when they enter the sea and reach our food via the food chain,” Normet explained the need for action.

The patron of the joint project is the ringed seal Vidrik, which symbolizes the situation of the Baltic Sea environment with its increasingly declining number in this area. “It probably doesn’t go unnoticed that Vidrik is very similar to the Olympic mascot Vigri. But the patron of our project is Vigri’s brother Vidrik. Vidrik is on all the official souvenirs of the Tall Ships Races Tallinn 2021 and constantly reminds us that only we can influence the environment around us by changing our behavior,” said Remmelkoor. From now on, Vidrik will be a symbol that will represent all projects related to Tallinn’s marine environment - just as Vana Toomas protects the Old Town, Vidrik will protect the Baltic Sea. “This year, the focus is on cigarette butts and the construction of cigarette butt trash cans; next year, other issues of the marine environment will hopefully come to the fore,” Remmelkoor added. The first 50 special trash cans for small rubbish and cigarette butts will be installed by the sea already in April this year. All people can contribute to the purchase of trash cans by buying the Tall Ships Races Tallinn 2021 souvenirs. For every item sold, 1 euro is directed to the prevention of cigarette butt pollution. Among the souvenirs, you can find water bottles, sea travel bags, shirts, sweaters, beach towels, ship mugs, as well as notebooks, pens, badges, etc. Souvenirs can be purchased from the Tall Ships Races Tallinn 2021 e-shop and Sokisahtel stores all over Estonia.

The world’s largest sailing ships race, the Tall Ships Races 2021, will take place from 27 June to 3 August in the Baltic Sea, stopping in the port cities of Klaipėda, Turku, Tallinn, Mariehamn, and Szczecin. The race will stop in Tallinn on 15 to 18 July, and a hundred ships take part in it. The aim of the training regatta is to involve and teach young people and to draw attention to the condition of the marine environment and nature conservation. The very first of the Tall Ships Races regatta took place in 1956 from Torquay (Great Britain) to Lisbon (Portugal), when 20 large sailing ships took part in the events.

Background information

  • People do not perceive the effects of cigarette butts on nature and the Baltic Sea, and it is thought to be a biodegradable waste. In reality, however, the cigarette butt filter is made of plastic and also contains toxins.

  • In the sea, the cigarette butt breaks into even smaller plastic and thus reaches the food table in a circle.

  • Within the framework of World Cleanup Day on 19 September 2020, 1.6 million cigarette butts were collected in Estonia in just one day.

  • The place of a cigarette butt is in the trash can.

  • To alleviate the problem, it is necessary to create more convenient ways for people to throw away cigarette butts: special trash cans and portable cigarette butt pockets.

  • As the Baltic Sea is one of the most polluted in the world, Tallinn decided to take the task even more seriously and, in cooperation with World Cleanup Day, launched an outreach project to solve the cigarette butt problem in the Baltic Sea.


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