Written by Boris Perišić
Catalonia, the region in Northern Spain, has some of the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean. At first sight, these paradisiacal beaches ar perfect in every way, but after looking at the sand more carefully any nature lover finds disappointment instead of shells. There are small pieces of plastic everywhere.
Unfortunately, the coasts of Catalonia have higher levels of microplastics than most Mediterranean beaches. The marine currents may have an impact on the accumulation of plastic waste in concrete points on the coast, but the contribution of terrestrial sources, such as industries or refineries, plays a determining role.
More than 30 chemical companies operate in that area, spread over 1,200 hectares that also include port facilities. It is the most important chemical complex in southern Europe, with a production of 20 million tons of various types of plastics and fuels.
The coastline in the Tarragona region is one of the most polluted with polyester, polyethylene, and polypropylene, well above the values collected in the oceans of the rest of the world. The impact of plastic on the sea and the possibility that it will end up being ingested by fish and shellfish is alarming.
We are often told that the emerging economies and third-world countries are the ones that pollute the most, but here we have a first-hand example of an EU member state that has a serious problem with the plastic on the beaches that are visited by millions of European tourists every year.
Platja Larga beach near Tarragona is considered one of the most beautiful in Costa Dorada. There are no hotels – only camping – and a green area that is a part of Natura 2000, which is a big European network of protected nature and fragile ecosystems. It is a perfect place to enjoy the beach, but even this part of the coast, away from the busy cities and the hotels, isn’t safe from plastic invasion.
I decided to go swimming there on the last day of summer and enjoy the warm current in the Mediterranean. The first surprise that I came across was the tiny pieces of plastic in the sand but even that didn’t prepare me for the shock when I dived under the sea and saw plastic floating around me. It was like being inside the billboard of the ‘Save the Oceans’ campaign!
Two months ago, I wrote about the UN Ocean conference, and I already knew that this problem is real. Nevertheless, I wasn’t prepared for this experience of swimming while surrounded by all this plastic. It is truly now or never.
Please take this threat seriously and help to educate people you know so that together we can minimize the impact of plastic on the environment. The best campaign is always word of mouth, so please talk about it with all your friends, family, neighbors and colleagues when you can.
Some people will continue to argue in favor of economic growth and will try to dismiss the harmful impact of our lifestyle on the environment, but we must continue to pursue the awakening of our society.
Embrace every chance to comment on someone’s plastic bags and bottles, say no to jewelry made of corals and seashells, do not wear synthetic and polyester clothes, use biodegradable sunscreens and suntan lotions, buy marine products that are certified as being produced with sustainable practices, and always recycle and upcycle.
You don’t want to spend your summer holidays surrounded by ‘Save the Oceans’ scenery.