Bikram Singh, Earth and Environmental Sciences student from Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany and Clean Coast Sardinia ambassador thanks to the Erasmus+ program, during his stay with us completed a Marine Litter course organised by UN Environment Programme together with Open Universiteit in the Netherlands.
In his assignment, he decided to focus on the problem of the presence of the cigarette butts at Poetto, a long stretch of sandy beach that belongs to two biggest municipalities on the island, Cagliari and Quartu Sant’Elena. You can read his research here.
Anche in tempi di Covid non si fermano le nostre iniziative di pulizia e sensibilità ambientale!
Il limite della zona arancione in Sardegna di queste ultime settimane e il divieto di assembramento hanno comportato però delle modifiche alle nostre azioni che si stanno concentrando prevalentemente lungo il litorale del comune di Quartu Sant’Elena (sud Sardegna) dove la nostra associazione ha sede, grazie anche alla collaborazione del Comune nella parte che riguarda la raccolta finale dei rifiuti.
Con cadenza settimanale alcuni di noi, insieme ad altre associazioni cittadine, si stanno incontrando in luoghi prestabiliti grazie a segnalazioni di cittadini attivi, per quelle che abbiamo chiamato semplici “passeggiate ecologiche”. Ed è ciò che è accaduto anche sabato, il 6 febbraio insieme a Cittadinanza Attiva, l’Associazione Rinascita e Cittadini Uniti.
Zona di incontro Via Tirreno, proprio di fronte la mare. Presenti circa 15 persone appartenenti a vari gruppi, alcune nuove, come sempre molte donne, circa la metà non sarde (anche tre tedeschi tra noi), ma tutte entusiaste!
Dopo aver distribuito le buste, i guanti e dato istruzioni del caso, anche anti covid, si parte alle 15.00 per la passeggiata lungo la costa divisi in due gruppi che si sono mossi verso i lati opposti della costa.
La spiaggia sorprendentemente era abbastanza pulita, ma con presenza di microplastica e qualche rifiuto proveniente dalle mareggiate di questi giorni. Il terreno antistante la spiaggia invece, come sempre, non si presentava altrettanto pulito, e questa volta la colpa non era delle mareggiate. Molte bottiglie di vetro, sempre la solita immancabile plastica e cumuli di rifiuti indifferenziati abbandonati lungo le cunette, tra cui molto metallo arrugginito ed anche rifiuti da manutenzione di macchine.
Alla fine in due ore questi sono stati i risultati della nostra raccolta:
prontamente ritirati dal servizio di igiene pubblica del Comune di Quartu. Alle prossime passeggiate, col solito entusiasmo, sperando prima o poi di tornare tutti a casa a mani vuote!
Limited by the anti-Covid-19 restrictions, we kept on organising small, local groups of volunteers, often consisting of families or groups of friends, who take part in so-called “eco-walks”. Observing all the anti-contamination rules ( masks, gloves, keeping distance) we managed to run 4 small events during the first month of 2021, collecting about 1200 KG OF WASTE and involving 80 volunteers!
The main source of the waste collected in January continues to be the FLY dumping of FLY tipping ( illegal abandoning of house-originating waste in the open, interesting study related to Italy’s fly tipping problem can be found here). The usual suspects are: big black bags full of unsorted rubbish, debris from the house redecoration (shower base, toilet, bags full of old tiles), clothes, car seats for children, broken buggies and furniture.
We also continue finding waste linked to the past beach season like flippers, single-use plastic plates and cups (reduced to tiny pieces), plastic bottles, ice-cream and ice-drink cups, beach equipment like chairs, beach umbrellas.
Our efforts last month were significantly reinforced by local voluntary groups, like the “active citizens” group from Quartu Sant’Elena. The residents of this coastal town ( now the third town in Sardinia when it comes to the size of the population) regularly participate in the efforts to clean-up the coast, which in this municipality stretches out for 26 kilometres.
Winter storms in Sardinia are characterised by heavy rainfall and strong winds. Cyclons are becoming more frequent due to climate change. Two things happen during these storm in relation to the coastal pollution: the level of water in rivers rise, little streams and crooks turn into torrents carrying down anything that was dumped into the water or along the banks. All house-originating waste that was thrown illegally in those bodies of water ends in the sea. Then the second phenomenon takes place – carried by the sea currents and high waves, the waste is then stranded along the Sardinian coast.
We observe these phenomena every winter and with every season the amount of waste gets bigger. Apart from the domestic waste such as all types of plastic containers ( for detergents and food storage), toys, broken furniture, car tyres, glass bottles, tins and cans, debris, we also find the remains of the last summer. It includes broken beach umbrellas and beach chairs, single-use plastic cups and plates, a lot of plastic spoons (used for ice-cream) and our local favourite: the tips of beach umbrellas. Stuck in the sand and forgotten by the beach goers, they get washed up to the surface in winter.
Little is still known about the consequences of abandoning the litter in the environment. Also, some part of the rubbish, like rubber, glass and plastic could be recycled if sorted out properly and collected by the waste collection company, instead of being dumped in the sea, in the river or any place around the island, which in many cases sooner or later will find its way down to the Mediterranean Sea.
Some statistics from December 2020:
Do you think a beach clean-up could make a difference?
On October the 10th 2020, Clean Coast Sardinia organized a beach cleanup in Platamona beach, Sorso Sardinia.The Platamona beach is in the Asinara Gulf in northern Sardinia. The beach itself is narrow but extended for kilometers with golden and white sands. Clean Coast Sardinia‘s founders and volunteers, with a few others helping hands like Waste Free Ocean and supported by Thierry Neuville, a rally driver who was racing at the Italy Rally Sardinia.
One side with white sand while on the other side of the dune has mounds of trash. The facing side was clean because you might get noticed by bystanders when polluting the beach while the other side is quiet and has many trees and bushes.
It is also true that the bars and restaurants keep eye on them. It is not the trash brought by the tides, which is impossible because of the natural high back dunes. As you can see in the pictures, this waste is directly thrown by the people. They could be the tourists, locals or the young bloods doing parties around the beach. You cannot see the big trash around the bars and clubs as they clean it actively. Nevertheless, there are plastic fragments lying around which can barely be spotted by our eyes. Walking along the white sand beach makes you feel that you are in a paradise with a blue and green sea. You even see some dolphins if you are lucky enough. But it is no more a paradise when it is full of trash and rubbish.
Many volunteers from Australia, England, France, Italy, Nepal, Poland and Sardinia itself have joined the beach clean-up. There is no boundary when you are willing to contribute to the environment. Without taking any breaks and with a huge smile on and tireless eyes, they collected over 100 trash bags in a short span of time.
Fig c. & d.: Volunteers representing different countries and local communities.
The reality is,the organized beach clean-ups can only remove a fraction of the trash. But the remaining will last for hundreds of years until it is picked up. The Mediterranean Sea is just a few meters away, and it can have severe effects on birds and animals when they ingest it.
If you are reading this article, we encourage you to participate in clean-ups happening near you!
According to WWF, the amount of plastic that enters the Mediterranean water each year is 0.57 million tons which is like dumping 33,800 plastic bottles into the sea every minute. When you see trash even on the street, try to bring it in a bin. Also, there are many ways to reduce the use of plastic and manage the waste. Quit single use plastic, upcycle old stuff – with a little effort we all can contribute to minimise the negative impact on our environment and as a consequence, we make the ecosystem, which we are part of, healthier.
Platamona Beach Cleanup was the third event in the ICC 2020 Season, an initiative started by Ocean Conservancy. If you are reading this article, we encourage you to participate in clean-ups happening near you! You can also download a free app called CLEAN SWELL – if you do solo- cleanups or with small groups of friends – you can become part of the worldwide community share and help build a database.
A special thank you to Sorso municipality which helped us remove the trash from the environment, to Thierry Neuville for his support and promoting the good cause and first and foremost – to all the volunteers who participated in the event. See you soon!
Bikram Bahadur Singh