RIPARU (Integrated Research to Prevent the Accumulation of Plastic Waste) is due to be implemented along the shoreline of the Cap Corse and Agriate Marine Natural Park between 2023 and 2025. Supported and financed by a number of institutional partners and foundations, Almayuda among them, RIPARU 2025 is intended to be replicated around the Mediterranean Sea, which is especially vulnerable to the harm done by plastic.

12 questions put to Pierre Ange Giudicelli, co-ordinator of the Mare Vivu association running the RIPARU 2025 project…

Pierre Ange Giudicelli

Pierre Ange Giudicelli, can you briefly tell us about yourself?

I was born in 1992 in Pino, on Cap Corse. I grew up in the water and I’ve been a diver ever since I learned to walk. I studied underwater archaeology. After I got my diploma, I worked for a number of years in the Cap Corse and Agriate Marine Natural Park. I left to become the paid co-ordinator of the Mare Vivu association, which I and others founded. 

How did Mare Vivu come into being?

Six years ago, my friend Anthony-Louis Fusella and I set up a project to go around Corsica in seagoing sailing kayaks to raise awareness of plastic pollution. Eight of us young adventurers set off, all completely unknown and with no navigational experience, no real training related to plastic and the harm it does. No resources and no logistics either… A veritable small expedition during which we collected data for IFREMER (1) and other research bodies and mounted interventions on beaches, film screenings, etc. My area of expertise was archaeology, not marine biology, but it was literally gut-wrenching for me to see the accumulations of plastic that we observed up and down our coastline… That is how Mare Vivu came into being, with the determination to combat and take action against this pollution.

What actions does Mare Vivu undertake?

Without initially planning to, the association turned to three core themes, three issues that are essential for the planet: pollution, in particular plastic pollution; the collapse in marine biodiversity; and the upheaval in the climate system. There’s not much talk in Corsica about the last point even though we’re on the front line, as the Mediterranean is undergoing the highest rise in water temperature. We witnessed this in the catastrophic climate phenomena of 2022.

Stirring people’s imagination

How do you run your initiatives?

The idea in these three areas – plastic pollution, biodiversity and the climate – is to pair a scientific approach, through data collection work, with actions to communicate and to mobilise the general public. We’re looking above all to mobilise young people, to stir their imaginations… We want there to be an organisation in which young people who know the sea and its issues are able to appeal to other young people with no training or background in science and to help them discover the marine environment and the coast, to train them and equip them in order to encourage them to get involved.

How is it possible to learn and then train others in subjects in which one has no scientific background?

At the start, it’s quite difficult, and I remember I was afraid that I wasn’t up to the task of tackling these serious subjects. Our strong point has been our progress in the field of the citizen science. By gathering data on the marine environment, following protocols defined in conjunction with scientists, we quickly grew to become valued actors on the ground and more and more skilled. So much so that we have acquired considerable expertise in plastic pollution and we now contribute to the European network that monitors macro-waste. We have the ability to support local decision-makers, to advise them and to serve as a suggestion box for them…In 2020, ADEME (2) ranked us as one of their top 15 bodies nationwide working to combat plastic pollution. This has enabled us to export our concept to Martinique and to the mainland near Marseille, Toulon and other places to help set up specific projects.

How did the RIPARU 2025 project start?

It grew out of the campaigns we’ve been running every summer for a few years now to raise awareness around Corsica. These missions, which have become highly professional, are today recognised and have received numerous accolades at home and abroad. The RIPARU 2025 project is in fact the continuation of these efforts, a way of capitalising on what we have learned to do well in order to go further still and to make things happen with more of an impact.

Commando mission

Are you still running these summer campaigns?

Yes, still with our mini trimarans with colourful sails that replaced the kayaks. In 2022, we even ‘took on board’ a totally novice team. Four men and four women aged between 20 and 26, volunteers apart from a few interns, all students, half of them studying scientific disciplines… We trained them before ‘letting them loose’ for four weeks between Bonifacio and Bastia. Because of the heatwave, they took to the sea around 4.30 to 5.00 in the morning with a veritable ‘commando’ mission to complete: sailing, diving, collecting data, raising adults’ awareness, get-togethers with children, workshops, contact with sponsors and so on. And every evening, debriefing and feedback before bed! The young members of the expedition were transformed. They were overwhelmed with emotion on discovering vast expanses where waste had accumulated. They had to live together while subjected to an intense pace. They improved their sporting skills, their capacity for expression, their know-how related to handling technical materials… They trained in areas that in many cases will determine their future. They all acquired an acute understanding of the problem of plastic pollution. I know that wherever they go, they will be trailblazers. Speaking of which, one of the women who participated in this mission has been recruited to lead and co-ordinate the RIPARU 2025 programme.

What is the RIPARU programme?

As the situation on the ground continued to worsen alarmingly, we came to the realisation after six years that little had changed significantly at the political and economic level, but that is precisely where leverage has the most powerful effect! Consequently, we have decided step things up with a programme aimed at specific action by attacking illegal dumping, cigarette butts, the waste that flies off lorries, the rubbish carried out to sea by rainwater, etc. In short, the ordinary pollution on land, a large proportion of which ends up in the sea. Our aim is to tackle these problems one by one, to arrive at a diagnosis, to establish an order of priorities, then to really attack them with an effective action and prevention plan. A plan that includes mentoring and support for decision-makers, notably elected representatives and businesspeople, including hoteliers and restaurateurs. Among other actions, we will be developing an open-access interactive map so that all the reports we receive of areas where waste has been dumped or is building up can lead to concrete initiatives by groups and associations.

What does RIPARU 2025 mean?

In Corsican, the word ‘RIPARU’ means both ‘remedy’ and ‘bulwark’: it’s a question firstly of implementing specific measures against the existing pollution and, secondly, of adopting an effective strategy to prevent this pollution at source. Only by acting on these two issues will we be able to stem the scourge of plastic pollution significantly and lastingly. 

How are you going to proceed?

To begin with, we have chosen to work on the protected and geographically delimited sea environment of the Cap Corse and Agriate Marine Natural Park. The aim thereafter is to replicate this pilot project elsewhere in Corsica, in the Mediterranean and beyond. Its decision-making body brings together all the stakeholders with an interest in the sea, project managers, etc. With this grassroots body of expert volunteers, we will be developing initiatives under four headings: science, citizen mobilisation, upcycling and communication.

‘Mass construction’ tool

And that means…?

There will be four of us working on the science side, including the scientific director of STARESO (3) and a lead researcher. The STARESO, based in Calvi, is our primary scientific referent, but we have also set up a science council with representatives from various national laboratories.

To mobilise citizens, we will be drawing on the support of associations such as I Sbuleca Mare, based in Lumio (Balagne), and U Marinu in Bastia, which will be taking up our actions at a local level. With regard to upcycling, we are working with a young engineer who’s setting up machines to grind and recycle some of the plastic waste we collect to stop it from going to landfill. For communication, the project has partnered with Olmu Productions, whose mission is to design a video toolbox. Nowadays, video is a ‘mass construction’ tool. It allows us to anchor the problems in the locality, to explain these problems and show their impact and to guide groups in relation to the most effective mechanisms to combat this pollution. Video will also help to raise wider awareness of our actions and our ideas for the benefit of other places.

RIPARU 2025 : parce que ça se termine en 2025 ?

Nous nous engageons dans un cycle, de 2023 à 2025. Mais on ne risque pas de s’arrêter là, ça c’est sûr !

IFREMER: French National Institute for Ocean Science
ADEME: Environment and Energy Harnessing Agency
STARESO: Underwater and Oceanographic Research Station

Photos : Jean-Baptiste Andreani – Olmu Productions

Useful links : https://mare-vivu.org/corseacare/