WHAT DOES “BASURALEZA” MEAN?

Def.1: Residues generated by the human being left in natural spaces.

Def.2: A combination of elements generated by the human being which alter the balance of the ecosystems.

Def.3: An agent of a global change affecting species and natural spaces.

WOULD YOU KNOW WHICH ONE OF THESE IS NATURE AND WHICH IS NOT?

Basuraleza Image

Why the concern about litter in nature?

The emerging increase in debris and residues in nature has eroded the natural habitat of several species. There have been several studies associating between 800 and 1400 species to littering only in oceans and the aquatic environment. About thirty of them have been studied in Spain.

The scientific and international community agree on the importance of warning about the possible effects of the litter disposal in nature. However, in the middle of this great call to action, one obstacle arises, the term littering. In Spain, this term is not included in the Spanish Language Dictionary and several translations proposed by different institutions do not always succeed in meeting the challenge of informing the public opinion about the scale of the problem and how to become part of the solution. In English, the word littering can also be applied to urban dirt or to talk about organic waste.

This is why, after talking with experts and researchers specialized in biodiversity, Libera, SEO/Birdlife initiative with Ecoembes to free nature from rubbish, is proposing an alternative word that, at least in Spanish, would help to raise awareness about the problem and prevent the littering: “basuraleza”.

Another learning from scientific literature is that the dimension and complexity of the problem require more investigation. In fact, voices are starting to rise to talk about littering in nature as an agent of a global change, as a series of changes in the environment caused by humans, which include realities such as the greenhouse effect, loss of species and natural spaces as a consequence of the habitat destruction, uncontrolled urbanism and agricultural expansion.

“Basuraleza” and wildlife

The impact of the “basuraleza” on wildlife may be one of the most analyzed areas up to date, especially on the marine environment. Numbers do not stop growing: in 1997, an exhaustive research identified 247 species impacted [i]. Nine years later, in 2016, a new report tripled the number, up to 800 species [ii] , although by then some estimations showed 1400 aquatic species [iii] affected by the littering problem.

Its effect is especially damaging in the fauna and flora impacted. At the moment, it is estimated that 17% of the species affected by these residues are included in International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. This is the case, for instance, of the loggerhead sea turtle and the northern fur seal, both categorized as vulnerable species [iv]. Seabirds, such as the Scopoli’s shearwater and the Balearic Shearwater are not exempt from the catastrophe caused by litter in nature. A recent research estimates that 90% of seabirds have ingested plastic and if this situation continues, 99% will by 2050 [v].

What about terrestrial species? Studies about this environment are significantly inferior to those about marine areas. Thus, the plea for a greater effort in its research is more common. There are a series of analysis suggesting that the impact of terrestrial littering could be even bigger than the marine impact, since most of the residues that end up in the sea come from the mainland [vi].

Even more research

It seems there are blanks to fill on the study of the distribution and composition of “basuraleza“, its origin and monitoring. Especially, once more, in terrestrial and aquatic environments. To this date, the presence of plastic materials is the most researched one, but scientific publications also point to the need to analyze the impact of microplastics and plastics derived from clothes or cosmetics, of metallic residues (such as the toxic lead) and other waste, for instance, the ubiquitous non-reusable tissues and fag-ends. From the almost 6 billion of these goods produced per year, 4.5 billion ends up on the environment [vii].

LIBERA is working on the terrestrial, marine and fluvial environment thanks to the scientific methodology launched by associations such as Paisaje Limpio, Vertidos Cero or KAI Marine. Thanks to the citizen-based campaigns like “1m2” in which over 4000 volunteers have participated in 150 locations, we are spreading knowledge of the residues left in these environments.

This data strengthens the growing need to know more about the residues left in natural spaces to effectively solve this issue.

The solution is in everyone’s hands

Each and every person counts. Each action matters. A Q-tip that has been thrown in the toilet in Spain can end up interacting with a sea-horse in a pristine island of the Pacific Ocean. We should not forget either that one of the main challenges to stop this problem is to approach it at a global scale and counting on international cooperation.

Thus, is it necessary for every agent to work aligned, locally, nationally and internationally, to eradicate a growing concern: administrations, improving residue management and cooperating to help areas and countries lacking these resources; companies, reducing and managing their litter, and consumers, adequately managing the mentioned.

LIBERA was born to contribute to the eradication of litter in nature, to prevent its impact and diminishing effect on the natural capital, the key for human life. And it will continue to do so through our key basis: knowledge, conservation and recovery. With its citizen-based projects, LIBERA aims to achieve a greater awareness and environmental education, enabling us to move towards a circular economy.

“Litter left on natural spaces has become an environmental catastrophe at an overwhelming scale affecting not only flora and fauna but also the human being. With the campaign “Basuraleza” (littered nature) we aim to reach all citizenship, make them understand the gravity of the issue, which is present in any and all ecosystems of the planet.”

“We can still make it on time, there is a solution. At LIBERA we want, through a word which is still not present in the Spanish dictionary, to keep on working through our core values since the solution to this issue is not only necessary but also doable”, affirms Nieves Rey, Communication and Marketing Manager at Ecoembes.

“Littering in natural spaces is far from being an aesthetic or secondary problem. Although there is still much to do in the scientific sphere, the evidence is indisputable: we are in the midst of an environmental disaster that requires the action of each and every one of us. From local to international citizens, production sectors and administrations of any kind. Littering is not only the illegal waste we perceive or the plastic Island on the Pacific Ocean. It is every fag-end, the aluminum foil we cover our sandwich with, and any wrapping left in nature. This act can cause a direct effect on the degradation and destruction of the habitat, but also indirect effects, since the disperse presence of littering in almost every environment can become a source of pollution, often invisible, but with large-scale unpredictable consequences”, explains Social Area Manager at SEO/Birdlife, Federico García.

Bibliography

[i] 1997, Laist. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4613-8486-1_10

[ii] 2016. CBD Technicalseies 83 MARINE DEBRIS: UNDERSTANDING, PREVENTING AND MITIGATING THESIGNIFICANT ADVERSE IMPACTS ONMARINE AND COASTAL BIODIVERSITY

[iii] Real time data from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine research.

[iv] 2016. CBD Technicalseies 83 MARINE DEBRIS: UNDERSTANDING, PREVENTING AND MITIGATING THESIGNIFICANT ADVERSE IMPACTS ONMARINE AND COASTAL BIODIVERSITY

[v] 2015. Wilcox et al https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1502108112

[vii] Data of Clean Up Australia

THE PROBLEM IS IN OUR NATURE

The problem is in our nature. The solution is too. Be part of the solution. Join Libera.

“Basuraleza” (littered nature) is a term in Spanish coined by Libera to raise awareness about the serious threat that is silently altering the natural environment around the world. To scan it and understand it is the first step towards eradicating it.

Def: Residues generated by the human being left in natural spaces.

Def: A combination of elements generated by the human being which alter the balance of the ecosystems.

Def: An agent of a global change affecting species and natural spaces.

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