MANIFESTO FOR A PLASTIC-FREE SEA
The natural environment of the Balearic Islands is one of the highest valued ecological and landscape patrimonies of the Mediterranean area with several international recognitions such as the declaration of the island of Menorca as a Biosphere Reserve, or the declaration of the Serra de Tramuntana as Heritage of Humanity, the existence of the most important Posidonia meadow in Spain or the diversity of Mediterranean ecosystems and habitats such as Salobrars and wet zones, mountain areas, ravines and cliffs where many species of animals and vegetation live, many of which are endemic and endangered.
The Mediterranean Sea has one of the highest plastic contamination concentrations in the world. Plastics affect all levels of sea wildlife, from whales and big fishes to mussels and other invertebrates. Some species suffer from digestive problems and are likely to die due to plastic accumulation in their stomachs and intestines, while others, especially the smallest and filter-feeders, are affected by the toxic effect of some plastic compounds (like Bisphenol-A) and due to the aggregating effect of plastics on certain organic and toxic particles such as pesticides (DDT, PCB).
About 70% of plastics end up at the seabed, in front of the 15% that reaches the beaches. If we are under the impression of beaches being often dirty, we can only imagine how the seabed might be. Furthermore, most of the waste is degraded and disintegrated as micro-plastics until being incorporated into the water column and the trophic chain. In many areas of the Islands, specific examples of this situation, which causes a serious problem of sea degradation and pollution, can be found.
In the Balearic Islands, regarding only to plastics, cans, bricks and glass bottles, every day 1.000.000 beverage containers are lost and end up contaminating our territory. Along with the environmental and landscape impact of this waste reaching our marine and terrestrial environment, not recovering these containers implies a loss of natural resources and important economic costs to the local administrations. The implementation of instruments like the return systems for certain products and containers have proved to be efficient worldwide in order to avoid littering in the streets, beaches, seabed or in fields and forests.
In addition, return systems have other advantages such as the increase in the recovery and recycling rates of these elements, the reduction dependency on material imports, the generation and consolidation of job places, the reduction of waste littering with the consequent impact on the natural environment and the mitigation of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.
It is for all these reasons that the future approval of the first Balearic Law on Waste and Contaminated Soils becomes a unique opportunity to impulse and implement specific policies and measures to reduce, reuse and improve recycling in our islands.
In view of this situation, the members of this manifesto request:
- For the future Law on Waste and Contaminated Soils to include urgent measures to restrict and reduce the production and use of single-use plastic containers (bags, packaging, bottles, coffee capsules, straws, wipes…).
- For the future Law on Waste to include the introduction of packaging return systems to eliminate littering, and to improve the management results by increasing the selective collection levels and the quality of the material recovered, to facilitate the recovery of reusable containers and contribute this way to the implementation of a real and effective Circular Economy in the Balearic Islands.
- For the competent administrations to join their efforts acting in all possible fronts – prevention, awareness and the improvement of the management processes – before the degradation and plastic pollution of our seas become irreversible.
- For the distribution companies to eliminate unnecessary plastic containers, and provide sustainable alternatives to the consumers and encourage bulk sales and returnable packaging.