Love the ocean: Spain cleans up with the help of over 34,000 volunteers

Spain: Beaches to visit and avoid

The best? Credit: lunamarina/

A Spanish clean-up operation has been so successful that it has removed nearly 1,900 tonnes of plastic waste from its seas.

On Thursday, June 1, the Circular Seas project announced that after five years its more that 34,00 volunteers have removed 1,880 tonnes of rubbish, with the goal to create a circular economy out of waste, writes 20minutos, Friday, June 2.

The work is mainly focused on Spain’s fishing grounds and has successfully extracted rubbish from the beaches, seabeds and basins along the entire coastline of the Iberian Peninsula including marine reserves and other protected areas.

The vast majority is plastic waste such as sweets or snack packaging, from three 30 years ago, and of course, fishing gear. Although the project did throw up some surprises such as washing machines and building site fences, highlighting the fact that everything that is used on land can end up as rubbish in the sea.

The Circular Seas presentation was held yesterday in Baiona, Pontevedra, Galicia, and is promoted by Coca-Cola with the collaboration of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and various environmental organisations.

The hard work has been done by 34,000 volunteers, many of them schoolchildren. Fishermen also collect rubbish in their nets while fishing, which they return to land and deposit in the specific containers that the project has set up in the 17 ports involved in the programme. Once ashore the collected waste is then assessed for its recyclability.

One man who has been fishing for 50 years is José Manuel Rosas, and is also President of the San Martín de Bueu Fishermen’s Guild confirmed that ‘it is essential that our livelihood is in the best conditions. The culture is changing, nobody throws practically anything away anymore, but we still see plastics and other waste.

‘If we make people aware that it is better to bring it ashore than to throw it into the sea, we will have an increasingly cleaner sea. If we all had a little love for what feeds us, it would be better for everyone,’ he concluded.

Coca-Cola has set itself the target that by 2030, 100% of its packaging will be made entirely from recycled plastic. Its Director of Sustainability, Carmen Gómez-Acebo, explained next to one of the 17 benches that have been made with plastics recovered from the seabed, that the company’s objective is that ‘our packaging has less and less environmental impact.’

Another company, Ecoballution, works to reuse fishing nets from marine debris in nets for basketball hoops and goals.

Other scientific projects include research that proposes using the residue from wet wipes collected on the beaches to transform it into activated carbon that can be reused, also the energy recovery of microplastics or the recovery of lead from the seabed for use in other areas.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.