Beach Cleanup in Morocco

Beach Cleanup Marokko Imsouane
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Our online marketing specialist Leo Meitner had decided to work from Morocco for a while to learn more about the culture and enjoy the perfect waves. He quickly discovered that Moroccan recycling infrastructures are not very well developed and therefore entire cities, villages, beaches and seas are heavily polluted. On 31 January 2022, Leo, with the support of Biofabrik, Olo, Imi Bay and Mika, organised a Beach Cleanup to fight littering and raise awareness about its effects.

A post by Leonhard Meitner

Seeing the Plastic Problem With the Own Eyes

Crystal clear water flows along the rails while the surfboard glides over the face of the wave. In the distance, some jumping fish can be seen moving parallel to the incoming waves. The screeching of seagulls and the sounds of the ocean complete the scenery. But something is wrong. A look down the beach reveals a variety of colourful objects lying around individually or united in small groups. If one looks closely, these can also be located in the white water between the sets rolling in. What sounds nice is actually a big threat. We are talking about plastic waste.

 

The Corona pandemic has changed our perception of the need for the office. A Survey shows that 82% of all managers would like to establish remote work in their companies in the future. The idea of working remotely for Biofabrik for a few months was an ideal solution – which was soon to become reality. Because when asked if it would be imaginable to continue working for Biofabrik from Morocco, our manager Hendrik Oeser answered with a “I would do the same”.

Thanks to a good infrastructure, high-speed internet and right-hand point breaks which are just as fast, Morocco is the ideal destination for surfing enthusiasts who find the German winter just as appealing as tennis socks in Birkenstocks. After this attribute was true, both the the route and location for the end of 2021 have been roughly mapped out.

 

Morocco’s Waste Problem

After arriving in the North African country, it quickly was clear that Morocco, like many other countries, has a waste and recycling problem. Plastic waste in particular, which accounts for about 85% of solid waste on Morocco’s beaches, pollutes the environment. Morocco’s government attempted to combat local plastic pollution in 2016 by passing a law banning the manufacture, export, import and use of plastic bags.

However, the effect failed to materialise. Eggs, vegetables, fruit, everything, if possible, is packed in small plastic bags. Stubborn habits of using plastic bags instead of traditional baskets, as well as the increase in consumption of disposable products triggered by the Corona crisis are more regression than progress. The Moroccan recycling infrastructure is overburdened with the additional plastic volume. Morocco is a producer of 0.55 million tonnes of plastic waste per year, 55% of which ends up in nature.

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Figure 1: Besides plastic packaging, especially cigarette butts were found on Imsouane's beaches (Biofabrik, 2022)

Only 8% Of Plastic Waste Is Recycled

The leakage to nature is primarily the result of uncollected waste (25% of all waste) and open landfilled waste (36% of all waste). The example of the plastic bag serves to illustrate the figures. After the average duration of use, which is 25 minutes, ideally, it is disposed of in one of the rubbish bins that are hardly available to the public in Morocco. If this is the case, it has to survive the following days and the often associated attack by various street dogs before finally being taken away.

The far more likely case, however, is that it will not end up in any official landfill. In Morocco, plastic bags usually end up on the street, from where they are carried away by the wind and end up in one of the trees decorated with plastic bags, directly on the beach or in the ocean. The majority of waste ends up in landfills, while only eight percent of the plastic waste is recycled. Morocco’s economy loses an estimated annual 26 million dollars from plastic pollution as it affects tourism, shipping and fishing.

Imsouane, a fishing village in the south of Morocco, a place that normally evokes a sense of surfing or nature enthusiasm, is dominated by an oppressive feeling of desperation and powerlessness at the sight of piles of rubbish. The idea for the Beach Cleanup arose from the cognitive dissonance that results from our consumer behaviour and the resulting ever-increasing environmental pollution.

The Biofabrik Beach Cleanup Event

The project, organised by the Biofabrik in cooperation with the local Surf-Houses Olo and Imi Bay as well as the Moroccan environmental organisation Mika was well appreciated by all sides. With the support of over 25 people, 84 bags with a total weight of 406kg of waste were collected at the Beach Cleanup. During the two-and-a-half-hour action, the residents expressed their gratefulness to the volunteers again and again for their commitment.

The weight of the collected waste equals approx. 80% of the annual waste generated by an average EU citizen. For comparison: The plant developed by Biofabrik which breaks down plastics into their components and produces a crude oil from which new plastics are created, processes one ton per day. With a plant in Morocco, a part of the plastic pollution could be avoided already.

 

The following goals were pursued with the Beach Cleanup:

  • Create a more liveable environment
  • Raise public awareness of the causes of littering
  • To bring about positive change and promote efforts to prevent water pollution
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Figure 3: Summary of the Beach Cleanup

Together for a Plastic-free Environment

We have become used to the piles of rubbish in the environment that are slowly merging with nature – but we shouldn’t! The massive waste problem plaguing Morocco and the world cannot be solved in the short term. Decision-makers must take initiative to stem the tide of plastic. We must begin to include the costs of environmental pollution in the prices of the products produced. Environmental costing would ensure that freely available goods, such as the ocean, are better protected.

The Beach Cleanup event in Imsouane is part of a growing climate and environmental movement in Morocco, which is gaining momentum thanks to increased efforts by the UN . In addition to further cleanups, educational measures such as visiting and presenting information material in schools can help raise awareness of environmental issues in the future.

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