Soccer, like plastic, was invented 150 years ago. If this sport entertains and excites half the world, the abandonment of petroleum containers makes the whole planet tremble. Plastic production has gone from 2.3 million tons in 1950 to 448 million tons in 2015, according to Roland Geyer, a professor at the University of California quoted by National Geographic Last Monday Ecoembes and SEO / Birdlife visualized the problem with the presentation of the campaign Do not abandon more plastics, that fits within the project LIBERA of garbage collection in nature, what they call trash. "It is a silent plague, we have to put an end to this society of waste," said Óscar Martín, CEO of Ecoembes, the organization that coordinates the recycling of packaging, in a store of organic products in Chueca (Madrid) full of boxes of wood and glass jars.
In the last 18 months, the time that the LIBERA project has been in operation, 28,000 volunteers have removed 108,912 forgotten objects in nature, totaling 168.9 tons. "First we have to become aware, then the welfare society has to become a circular economy," explains Martín. The categorization of the waste collected has been used to prepare the report Impact of the abandonment of plastic in nature.
The citizen participation campaign covers three large areas: seas and coasts; rivers and swamps and forests and mountains. Of the 30,000 wastes that were collected on Spanish beaches in 2018, 38% corresponds to plastics. The butts, composed of cellulose acetate – a vegetable plastic without oil base – lead the table with 8,778. In a two-day raid in 2017, 15,000 seabed wastes were collected. 36% corresponds to plastic containers (packaging, bottles and packaging). "It's over that 'do not take it, it's trash.' Rather it would be 'do not throw it away, it's a resource'", says Asunción Ruiz, executive director of SEO / Birdlife, in reference to the warning parents make to their children so that they do not take things from the ground.
Many of the volunteers are children, who along with divers, fishermen and other citizens with environmental conscience form what Martín calls "the battalion of liberators of nature". The report that Ecoembes and SEO / Birdlife have developed not only focuses on waste thrown into seas and mountains, but also alerts the microplastics that are housed in the human body – an end confirmed by a 2018 study carried out by Philipp Schwabl, a professor at the University of Vienna. "They end up inside us because we are nature," says Ruiz.
Although the consequences of plastics exist in the body of humans are still unknown, it has proven the effect they cause in, for example, crickets. "They alter their reproductive capacity," says the director of the Spanish Society of Ornithology. Studies on the effect of plastics on animals are scarce. That is why the LIBERA project launched a study last year to evaluate the impact of litter in 140 important areas for bird conservation and biodiversity (IBA). Researchers from the CSIC will analyze samples of water, soil and feces in search of phytosanitary products (products to fight pests or diseases), heavy metals and derivatives of plastic.
A study by an official Australian agency and Imperial College London reveals that most seabirds harbor plastic in the intestine. It is estimated that by 2050 99% of these species will carry some residue derived from oil in their organism.
The plastic is not bad per se. Unesco analyzed the life cycle of fruit and vegetable transport containers in Spain. The work determined that the use of reusable plastic boxes generates 25% less environmental impact than that of single use cardboard. "The deforestation caused to obtain paper is more harmful than if plastic is manufactured and reused," says Ruiz. Since the 1982 World Cup in Spain, the ball incorporates synthetic material. The LaLiga ball is manufactured 90% with plastic derivatives. But do not throw to the Manzanares after each game.