PLASTICS

THE CHALLENGE

Eliminate plastics and microplastics
from our beaches

Inadequate waste management and overproduction of plastic have given rise to a global problem that we can no longer ignore: the pollution of our seas and oceans. There is an urgent need to promote policies, behaviours and technical solutions to tackle this problem that threatens both marine ecosystems and human health.

The composition of plastic as well as the absorption of other chemical substances leads to a highly toxic environment for wildlife and even for humans, given that we bathe in marine waters and that, above all, we consume seafood contaminated by microplastics. In addition, the presence of waste such as micro- and macroplastics on beaches has important economic consequences for island and coastal communities, especially those that depend on tourism as their main economic activity.

The challenge is threefold: to remove this waste from our beaches, to update regulations to prevent it from being dumped in the seas and oceans and, most critically, to significantly reduce the consumption and production of plastic.

At Canarias Archipiéago Sostenible we have set out to tackle this problem starting with microplastics, the most invisible waste to society.

Microplastics are waste that can hardly be seen, but end up in our bodies either because we breathe them in or unknowingly ingest them. A few weeks ago we launched a petition against microplastics in the ocean. These come both from containers full of plastic pellets dropped into the sea from the cargo ships that transport them, and from plastics already in the form of an end product (fishing nets, bottles), but dumped into the sea.

Removing microplastics from the water is an almost impossible task with today's technology, as plankton and even small life forms would also be washed away in the process.

THE SOLUTION

Having consulted a number of academic experts on this problem, and having already gathered more than 25,000 signatures in support of our proposals to eliminate microplastics from Canary Islands beaches.we at Canarias Archipiélago Sostenible are tackling this challenge in four ways:

1. Promoting an innovative technique that can remove micro- and macroplastics from our beaches.

2. Demanding the tightening of existing regulations at regional, state and European level to prevent shipping containers from continuing to fall into the sea.

3. Establishing alliances with other social partners to strengthen our legislative proposals and our dialogue with authorities both in Spain and in Brussels.

4. Raising public awareness of the need to consume less plastic.

Canarias Archipiélago Sostenible has entered into a strategic alliance with Hoola Onea group of young Canadian entrepreneurs who have developed a technique that offers a solution for the elimination of plastic waste in coastal areas.

Photo of microplastics on La Laja Beach (Gran Canaria)

Microplastics on La Laja Beach (Gran Canaria)

The solution is designed to extract the smallest plastic particles that are virtually impossible to recover. Compared to existing beach cleaning technologies that work with sieves, our proposed solution is able to collect much smaller particles, as a flotation separation method is used to recover plastic particles down to 50 µm. Furthermore, the extraction can be performed on both dry and wet sand.

Equally important, this innovative solution features an environmentally safe separation technique: it is the only device capable of returning all the natural matter essential to the ecosystem, such as algae, to the beach.

The device consists of three modules, allowing access to areas that were previously unreachable with other clean-up mechanisms. Many sites affected by plastic pollution are not accessible by conventional roads or passable paths, making it necessary to have devices that can be easily transported by hand, in a van or on a boat.

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