World Environment Day brings plastic pollution in the Canaries into focus

Photo: Alex Rivera.

Today is World Environment Day and many Canarian organizations are taking advantage of the occasion to remind us all that although we don’t have too much of a problem here compared with some other places, the situation is worsening all the time. And this, despite campaigns for recycling, taking home rubbish, reducing our environmental footprint, especially when it comes to plastic waste, wherever possible.

And although it’s true to say that many other places suffer far worse plastic contamination, one part of the Canaries is suffering particularly: the little island above Lanzarote, La Graciosa, is the focal point for thousands of kilos of plastic brought by currents from the north and experts say it’s difficult to know how to stop it. The problem is so acute, indeed, that clean-up campaigns there are focusing only on larger pieces of plastic because “The battle against microplastics – bits of debris less than five millimeters in length – was lost long ago”.

So says Alex Rivera, a WWF biologist from Lanzarote, who adds that scientists and campaigners are focusing on just getting rid of the bigger pieces before they completely decompose in the sun, contributing to the microplastic avalanche the Archipiélago Chinijo Natural Park in La Graciosa is being swamped by. El País in English has THIS piece explaining the problem in much more detail, and it’s true that it’s difficult to see a solution: indeed the Canarian WWF office, now celebrating its 20th anniversary, has THIS page on the main WWF website detailing the challenges we face here from mass tourism and an apparently global general inability to cut back on the use, and waste, of plastic.

Whatever the future holds, we can all agree, I imagine, that we hope it holds far less plastic than presently, and far far less than is forecast if we fail to cut back on our own use of it and its use in food packaging continues to increase … and yes, Mercadona, I’m looking at you among others …

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