Tackling Plastics Pollution in Mallorca

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.

The results

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…

Asociación Ondine has become Save The Med Foundation (in 2019)

Find out more about this Balearic foundation on their Facebook page or on their website and read my article about its founder Brad Robertson here.

If you’re looking for a gift for a hard-to-buy-for someone, how about a year’s membership of the Foundation?

©Jan Edwards 2017

Floods and high winds on Mallorca

It’ll be hard to believe if you know Mallorca only as a sun, sand, and sea holiday destination, but the island has had some pretty awful weather this January. We moved here in April 2004 and the recent spell of winter weather was the worst we’ve seen during our time here: snow, hail, thunder and lightning, wind, and rain. The timing of the bad spell of weather couldn’t have been worse, resulting in several of the events scheduled for the two main January fiestas being postponed or cancelled. So no animal blessings to photograph this year in Manacor…

Shut out the world

The worst of the rain, and wind came over this last weekend, when AEMET – the Spanish met office – warned people on Mallorca not to go out unless essential, as high winds and torrential rain were due. We shut the shutters and hunkered down, like two little moles in the gloom. The Boss sketched a few simple plans for building an ark – large enough for the two of us and our eight cats.

Rain hammered on the roof but only a small amount seeped into the house, under the front door. For some reason, front doors on Mallorca always seem to leak. (If you see a wooden board leaning at an angle against the door of a house on Mallorca, it means rain is expected and the board is to deflect the flow of water; that’s the hope anyway).

The results

The Serra de Tramuntana had almost 200 litres per square metre on Saturday and many other areas of the island had between 60 and 90 litres, resulting in large amounts of flooding in the central area – known as the Pla. Winds of up to 120 kilometres an hour battered Mallorca and caused quite a bit of damage.

At one point 34 roads on the island were closed because of flooding and the Coll de Sóller mountain pass was blocked by fallen boulders and trees. The two reservoirs in the mountains – seriously depleted of water after last summer’s long hot dry spell – overflowed.  Coastal areas – particularly in the north and northeast – were battered by winds and alarmingly high seas, causing some structural damage in places.

The new-look Son Serra de Marina

Yesterday, a brief pausa in the stormy weather gave us a couple of hours of late-afternoon sunshine, so we drove to Son Serra de Marina to breathe some sea air and see what devastation the weekend’s storm had unleashed. The sea was rough, but nothing like it had been over the weekend.  This virgin beach has been completely remodelled by the elements and it may be some time before it’s possible to walk from the car parking area near the restaurants Lago and El Sol towards Colònia de Sant Pere without wading through water from the engorged Torrent de na Borges.

Stormy Mallorca

The new-look Son Serra de Marina beach

The apparent ‘cliff’ on the right is sand, sculpted by the wind and sea

Mallorcan torrente

The swollen Torrent de na Borges has joined up with the sea

Walkers' signposts blown down along this popular hiking route

Walkers’ signposts blown down along this popular hiking route, now littered with debris

 

©Jan Edwards 2017