A new life for marine litter with the Litter Spain inclusion project

EUBeachCleanup is the EU’s own cleanup action, which takes place around the world every autumn. But the EU is also supporting a number of other marine litter projects. Beach cleaning is a tangible way for citizens to act for the environment and useful for raising public awareness. But what happens to the waste that is collected during such cleanings, and more specifically, what about plastics? The “Litter Spain” project has an answer to this question, with two very important advantages: the circular economy and social inclusion.

Marine litter not only has negative environmental impacts, it is also bad for local businesses, from tourism to artisanal fisheries and aquaculture. The “Litter Spain” project in Galicia, shows how to foster new opportunities in the circular economy, while benefiting people with disabilities – a group at risk of social exclusion. In the village of Concello de Outes, on the Atlantic coast, a former local school has been renovated and turned into a new marine litter processing center. The center was then allocated to three associations of disabled people.

At the start of the process, associations organize beach clean-ups, where waste is collected and disposed of at central collection points. Then, thanks to the equipment installed in the old school, the waste is then sorted and recycled into new items, intended for the fishing industry (for example, local shellfish collectors).

The new items are designed by women in the fishing industry and purchased by local fishing organizations, providing income for social associations and their members. The project involves training members of associations in the shellfish industry, marine conservation, waste collection and treatment; as well as a workshop for fishing professionals to learn about the design of fishing tools in collaboration with the University of La Coruña. The project is supported by Costa Sostible FLAG and promoted by the local Association of Women in the Fishing Sector, in collaboration with the town hall (which donated an abandoned school building).

The integration of people with disabilities into the labor market is really difficult. But this project is a way to prove that people with disabilities can contribute to positive change, reaching new goals to solve a global problem such as marine litter.,

says Teresa Abuin Figueira, the project coordinator.

Litter Spain engages local people with disabilities in coastal conservation and gives a second life to marine litter: it comes largely from fishing activity and, returning it in a recycled form to the fishing industry, it constitutes a excellent example of circular economy.

EU funding, through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, not only promotes local economic prosperity and social inclusion, but has also contributed to an overall reduction in coastal pollution.

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Discover #EUBeachCleanup, an annual campaign organized jointly by the European Union and the United Nations and mobilizing thousands of volunteers around the world for a cleaner ocean.