Estíbaliz López-Samaniego is the project director of Vertidos Cero (Zero Waste), an association that turns 10 years old in January 2019. A pioneer in warning of the danger of marine litter in Spain, this researcher is satisfied because, at last, the work of scientists, researchers and associations have contributed to the current change of mentality, where the population joins the wave of reducing plastic. PhD in Chemistry with more than 20 years of experience in R + D + i projects in waste management and treatment, Estíbaliz asks for common sense when it comes to consuming plastics.
What does the Vertidos Cero Association do?
It is a non-profit entity composed of a score of professionals who develop actions to prevent marine discharges from entering our seas. Above all, we do research projects or applied science to spills such as the Marnoba platform.
Tell us about that mobile application, what is it?
Marnoba was born six years ago when we realized that there was no data on marine litter in Spain that told us what our situation was. Taking advantage of the great work of the volunteers, we launched this application with which we started to obtain a database of waste in our country on beaches and coasts. The user collects the information in a certain area and sends us a form with the data. The application collects the garbage according to the type of material that is. Over the years, the marine scenarios were expanded. Now, users who have Marnoba can transmit waste information from anywhere on the planet, from coasts and beaches, but also from floating for navigators, from trawlers or from seabeds. The European Commission has already used direct data from the users of this application in some report, which shows the size of marine litter in our seas.
And in what situation is Spain?
The Spanish coast is all affected by marine litter. Although there are differences on the type of waste between the Atlantic coast and the Mediterranean. For example, in the Atlantic, due to industry and fishing, there is more presence of heavier objects and in the Mediterranean, there is a higher percentage of plastic, probably of domestic origin, and because it is a coastal area with a large occupation destined to the leisure.
With how many volunteers does Marnoba now count?
Registered there are 1,200 users. We have in all of Spain but there are three communities where there is a higher percentage that are Andalusia, Galicia and the Canary Islands, from where we receive a greater number of forms than other Spanish coastal communities.
Do you think that the work of Vertidos Cero and other associations and researchers have finally made society more aware of the problem of plastic?
A few years ago, when there were a few of us who were worried about marine debris, nobody listened to us. Things have changed. We must recognize that sometimes scientists and researchers have not been able to reach the population, to use a language that is too technical and in this the media has helped us. But what is evident is that the waste, the marine garbage, is already seen by the whole world. We have noticed that in the last five years there has been more awareness and sensitivity about this problem. Of course, there has been a turning point and now we all consider it normal to reject a plastic bag and in this change of mentality I think that associations open melons thanks to the philosophy of collaboration with which we work.
Should we reject everything that has plastic?
No way. The plastic has contributed to improve our lives in the medical field or the technological but what can not be is that we use plastic for a single use. It can not be that an object that we consume in a minute of time is manufactured with a plastic with a consumption for the same time. The plastic has a permanence of more than 200 years and this must be kept in mind when consuming it, we must do it with logic.
The collection of marine litter is another objective of Vertidos Cero
Yes, Vertidos Cero is part of a major project promoted by the Coca Cola Foundation for the cleaning of coasts and seabeds. What we do within this project is to investigate in the hand of the fishing sector. We collaborate with 50 fishing boats in 10 ports of Spain and Portugal, bringing waste collected from their fishing activities to land. We remove the waste from the seabed to manage it on land.
And once on land, what do you do with them?
In Repescaplas, another project in which we participate, we try to find an answer to what to do with marine litter once we remove them from the environment. We collaborate with trawlers and smaller crafts of Gandía, Marín and Vigo. We classify all recovered objects and look for a solution to transform the waste into a new product. And we already know that the film, the plastic bags have the possibility of being recycled but the same does not happen with the pet, which comes very degraded when we pick it up. The RepescaPlas project is developed with the collaboration of the Biodiversity Foundation, of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition, through the Pleamar Program, co-financed by the FEMP. The project is coordinated by AIMPLAS and has the participation of the Global Nature Foundation, the Asociación Vertidos Cero, the University of Vigo and the Fishermen’s Association of Gandia.
Now that one year is over and one begins where Vertidos Cero meets a decade committed to the sea, make a wish
Continue to advance in the knowledge of this problem and continue transmitting it to the population.
Where to replace the use of plastics
As explained by the spokesperson of Vertidos Cero, the ideal when it comes to consuming plastic is to do it with logic. For example, bottled water, where there are many alternative solutions to plastic bottles such as canteens and steel bottles Klean Kanteen. Also to avoid the use of the film to store food there are alternative formulas such as the Avocato Huggers. And before the unnecessary use of plastic balls for the purchase there are solutions as practical as the Itty Bitty Bag, bags of great strength and size.