Butts, small pieces of plastic, lids and plugs unfortunately occupy prominent positions on the list of waste abandoned in the coastal and marine environment, according to the characterization study being carried out by the Libera Project, an initiative of SEO/BirdLife in alliance with Ecoembes, as a result of the seventh edition of the citizen science campaign '1 m² for the beaches and the seas'.
Since last September 16 - coinciding with International Beach Cleanup Day (World Clean Up Day) - until the 24th, almost 5,000 people have participated in this environmental protection proposal based on the collection and characterization of garbage found on beaches and sea beds. The first balance indicates that in this edition 77,605 waste abandoned in these natural environments have been characterized.
The collections have taken place at a total of 302 points spread throughout the country with the aim of knowing the type of waste that makes up garbage, analyzing the effects and consequences in natural spaces and raising awareness about this problem. In this way, the participants in this initiative have removed 3.6 tons of waste, demonstrating the commitment and awareness of citizens with nature conservation.
The campaign has had the participation of organizations such as the Spanish Red Cross, Oceánidas, Asociación Hombre y Territorio, Asociación Terramare, ADESP, Alnitak, Mater, Asociación Región de Murcia Médica, ANSE and the Reina Sofía Foundation.
After the collection and analysis of garbage, the items most found on the Spanish coasts have been, in order, cigarette butts, plastic pieces less than 2.5 cm and lids and plugs, followed by wrappers or bags. of plastic.
Cigarette butts affect species and their ecosystems. This is demonstrated by various studies, which ensure that the polluting effect of cigarette butts can last between seven and 12 years and some authors even claim that it can last up to 25 years.[i] In fact, each cigarette butt can contaminate up to eight or 10 liters of water; and up to 50 liters if it is fresh water.
In addition to cigarette butts, the presence of plastics and microplastics in the seas and beaches can cause serious effects on local fauna such as ingestion and death from starvation, since plastic waste can be confused with food floating in the sea, in addition to They can be a vector of pathogens that affect natural environments. According to the United Nations, 640,000 tons of abandoned fishing gear, composed of plastic fibers, disappear into the sea every year, many of them becoming death traps for species such as cetaceans, turtles or seabirds.
The participants have used the MARNOBA mobile application, developed by the Zero Discharge and Garbage Association to characterize the waste found. At the end of the campaign, this data will be added to the more than 1,000,000 objects already characterized and that LIBERA has been collecting since 2017 in its 'Garbage Barometer', to be integrated into the database of the Ministry for the Transition Ecology and the Demographic Challenge of Spain (MITECO).
“Of all the m2 campaigns that we organize at LIBERA, the beach campaign is perhaps the most illustrative of the global nature of the problem. The seas vomit onto the coasts waste that has been abandoned in any region of the planet over a period of several years. We cannot continue dumping 11 million tons of plastic into the oceans every year. No ecosystem has an infinite capacity to assimilate pollutants without collapsing,” says Miguel Muñoz, coordinator of the LIBERA Project at SEO/BirdLife.
“The seventh edition of '1m2 for the beaches and the seas' highlights the problem of garbage in our natural environments, but also highlights the strong commitment and environmental awareness of the Spanish population. We want to express our gratitude to all the volunteers, organizations and associations that have joined us to preserve and protect the coasts of Spain,” comments Sara Güemes, coordinator of the LIBERA Project at Ecoembes.