Class of 2022

Lefteris Arapakis

Trailblazing Activists

28 / Piraeus, Greece

The angler-turned-teacher tackling ocean pollution

Born into a Greek family of fishermen, Lefteris Arapakis spent his life on the Mediterranean coast. Having inherited knowledge of a practice that has been passed down from father to son for five generations, Lefteris was quick to notice that the fishing industry is no longer thriving as it once was: more and more fishermen are having to compete with the rising tide of ocean waste.

When the Greek economic crisis washed over the country in 2016, Lefteris stepped up to the plate with Enaleia, his not-for-profit social enterprise dedicated to sustainable marine life and the education of young fishermen. The organisation faces both local challenges – such as the employment of small fishing communities – and oceanwide pollution, with initiatives such as the Mediterranean CleanUp.

No doubt influenced by his education in business at the University of Athens, Lefteris has implemented innovative ways to create a circular economy and incentivise sustainable practices. Using the plastic brought to shore by fishermen, Enaleia collaborates with companies to create t-shirts and socks, upcycling waste and reducing carbon emissions. Lefteris’ plastic clean-up operations help to remove more than 1.5 tonnes of marine plastic every week.

Riding the wave of success, Lefteris set his sights on improving not just Greece’s seas, but waters around the world. Mediterranean CleanUp now functions in Italy, and Lefteris has brought Bahari Safi to the shores of Kenya and it is already undertaking fast-moving action.

“I believe in the vital role that the fishing communities can play in driving climate action, mitigating marine plastic pollution and overfishing, given their broad knowledge and experience with the ocean and its particularities... Optimism and flexibility are our main weapons against climate crisis." – Lefteris Arapakis
Lefteris Arapakis
  • “We are all aware of the enormous and increasing threats of pollution and overfishing on the life and ecosystems of our seas. Sustainability is a global urgency that requires a net of people, systematic thinking and looking at the bigger picture to address the bigger problem. Lefteris does exactly that. Enalaia is not only taking a real and direct action in cleaning the Mediterranean Sea from plastic and contrast overfishing practices, but also involving and encouraging a network of individuals to do the same. The more people take part in the change, the bigger the change will be. This kind of long-term thinking is what we need, what our planet needs.”
  • Lara Gilmore
  • Osteria Francescana

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