Plastic waste. Don’t you hate what it’s doing to our planet? On the recent guide4dogs beach walk from Colonia de Sant Pere to Son Serra de Marina, in the north of Mallorca, several of us commented on the amount of plastic we saw along the way. Last Sunday, the marine conservationists of the excellent local NGO Asociación Ondine had organised a Dos Manos (Spanish for ‘two hands’) beach clean at Son Serra – the last clean-up of 2017. The Boss and I decided we’d go along and ‘do our thing’ because this beach is not too far from us and is one we visit at all times of the year.
All hands to the sands
The weather wasn’t good on Sunday as we set off, with wind and rain battering the car. It would have been so easy to stay at home, but we had said we were going and going we were!
It was a relief to find that the rain had stopped when we arrived at the blustery meeting point. The virgin beach at Son Serra de Marina is popular with kite surfers because the sea along here can be pretty rough and it looked quite spectacular on Sunday, especially once the sun came out for a while.
We’d equipped ourselves with some new heavy-duty gardening gloves and a collection bag. We set off, heads down, searching for plastic waste – and it wasn’t hard to spot. Some of the volunteers were assigned to collecting microplastics – working on their knees with a grid and a sieve to sift through the sands for these tiny pieces (up to 5mm), which are a huge threat to the marine environment (and, ultimately, us as a race).
A festive reward afterwards
Because we’d been heads-down perusing for plastic, we were surprised at the end to see how many volunteers had come along to help out – in spite of the cold weather. More than 50 of us had turned up. We knew several of them and enjoyed chatting afterwards over hot chocolate, mulled wine, and home-made cookies – provided by volunteer Steph.
Of course, by now, more plastic will have washed up onto this beach. The point is that these beach-cleaning events raise awareness of the problems caused by single-use plastics, prompt change in everyday habits, and also provide data for scientific study. At the end of the collecting period, we returned to our starting point to tip our findings onto a growing pile. This was then sorted into different types of plastic so that numbers could be recorded and the haul was then removed from the beach.
Asociación Ondine has released the findings of Sunday’s Dos Manos event, at which a total of 4,500 items were collected, weighing 82 kg. Amongst these, from a fairly short stretch of Son Serra de Marina beach, were:
- 1,529 microplastics (818 of which were nurdles – the tiny pellets used in the plastics industry to make larger items)
- 748 Q-tips
- 681 bottle caps
- 97 utensils (including drinking straws)
It’s a sobering thought…
If you’re looking for a gift for a hard-to-buy-for someone, how about a year’s membership of the association? You’ll be helping to make 2018 a year of change for marine conservation.
©Jan Edwards 2017