More than a million garbage waste characterized in Spain

More than one million waste have been characterized since the LIBERA Project began, by SEO/BirdLife in alliance with Ecoembes, thanks to the collaboration of the project's volunteers. This is a milestone in the data recorded through the citizen science applications that have driven this project since it was launched in 2017. Its objective is to raise awareness and mobilize society about the amount of waste that is generated and the impact it has. they have if they are abandoned in nature.

This has been highlighted in the presentation of the LIBERA Project Annual Report 2023where Asunción Ruiz, executive director of SEO/BirdLife, and Rosa Trigo, CEO of Ecoembes, have highlighted the commitment and work of all those who are part of the movement.

Thanks to them, last year it was possible to collect and classify about 124 tons of garbage in more than 2,100 natural points. Within these campaigns, nearly 335,000 wastes abandoned in nature were characterized, which means more than one million have been registered since 2017.

Much of this figure has been achieved thanks to the large '1m2 against litter' collection that, like every year, took place in June, and to the '1m2' citizen science campaigns in different environments (river, marine and terrestrial). ,) that LIBERA organizes throughout the year. In 2023, 34,500 people participated in the campaigns.

More than 2,500 entities against garbage

Thus, the LIBERA Project has managed to consolidate a network that already consists of more than 2,500 entities between public administrations, scientific entities or local groups to fight against garbage. In the last year alone, 390 new ones have gotten involved, of which 156 are companies. All willing to work on solutions to this environmental problem, each one from their field and specialty.

Without a doubt, one of the fundamental pillars is public administrations. In 2023, 224 new municipalities throughout Spain They joined the #MiPuebloSinBasuraleza initiative, which now has 755 in total, to value their natural heritage and raise awareness among their neighbors and visitors about the impact of abandoning waste in their environments.

Rosa Trigo CEO of Ecoembes and Asunción Ruiz, executive director of SEO/BirdLife at the presentation of the 2023 Report of the LIBERA projectRELEASE

LIBERA has also collaborated in seven Hydrographic Confederations (Cantábrico, Duero, Ebro, Tajo, Segura, Miño and Sil) and 297 natural spaces (seven of them National Parks: Garajonay, Guadarrama, Monfragüe, Picos de Europa, Cabrera, Teide and Atlantic Islands ), collaborating with the organizations in charge of their management and with the autonomous communities that host them, to sensitize their visitors to the problem of garbage and the importance of prevention, and providing materials, tools and training to professionals who work in they.

In addition, research, educational, social or sports entities also participate within the LIBERA network. They are called LIBERA Alliances, which channel their work through different joint projects such as the fight against the abandonment and use of ghost fishing nets in collaboration with the Alnitak association in the Balearic Islands, the awareness days on the problem of garbage held together with the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP), the sampling and analysis of microplastics in 30 rivers thanks to the work of scientists from the Man and Territory entity or collecting, characterizing and raising awareness about waste from the bottom of the sea and the boulevards with Oceánidas and Ecopuertos respectively.

Cigarette butts, queens of the garbage

Of all the garbage collected and characterized in 2023 (335,000 waste), one more year, cigarette butts as waste most found in natural environments (represent more than 19% of all garbage), followed by wet wipes (11.07%), pieces of plastic less than 2.5 cm (10.45%) or drink cans (9.04%), among others. This information has been collected thanks to the technology of apps such as e-Litter, MARNOBA or the Garbage App, and is essential to identify the most abundant types of garbage in each environment and implement adapted solutions and awareness campaigns. In addition, all the data collected is available in the 'Garbage Barometer' and has been integrated into the database of the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (MITECO), thus helping to generate greater knowledge. about garbage in Spain.

Among the data collected by the releasers in the garbage collections carried out in 2023, plastics smaller than 2.5 cm appeared in the top 5 waste of all the 1m2 campaigns for the different environments. Therefore, facing the problem of this plastic waste has been one of LIBERA's main struggles in the last year. Abandoned plastic waste ends up breaking down into smaller pieces. When they are smaller than 5 millimeters they are called microplastics. and they are a serious problem for marine ecosystems, where microplastic pollution affects all levels of the food chain.

For its part, to show the ubiquitous presence of this waste, the Man and Territory Association (HyT) in collaboration with the LIBERA Project, has launched “MICRO”, the first website that shows the different projects and sampling associated with studies of microplastics in all of Spain.

Key awareness in the fight against litter

In order to prevent the abandonment of waste in natural spaces, awareness campaigns are necessary that show the problems associated with the garbage found in collection campaigns. For this reason, the LIBERA project carries out an average of 17 campaigns each year focusing on the most common waste and the most sensitive places where it accumulates.

Preventing the abandonment of waste in nature through environmental education is also key and the LIBERA network reaches the educational community through the LIBERA Classrooms program, which aims to promote the fight against litter and create a commitment to natural environments among students. During the 2022/2023 academic year alone, more than 400 new classrooms throughout Spain have signed up for the initiative, thus allowing more than 11,100 new students (60,000 since its start in 2018) to learn about the problem of abandoned waste that surrounds them and seek solutions through gamification and didactic actions on the nearest natural terrain.

“The LIBERA movement is the thousands of people who are crying out for a change in the production and consumption model. The ecological crisis we are experiencing deserves the attention of everyone, administrations, companies, groups, organizations and people. Each of us from our sphere Personally and professionally, we must assume a change in the paradigm to confront the climate emergency and the loss of biodiversity. This movement is a hope towards a more environmentally and socially just model and world. Nature is our best ally, take care of it our guarantee for the future,” says Asunción Ruiz, executive director of SEO/BirdLife.

“We greatly appreciate the support and commitment shown by the liberators, towns and entities that have joined our project to put the problem of garbage abandonment in the debate. All this support drives us to reach the position of Spanish reference against garbage. From a small town in our country to the European Environment Agency, from large scientific alliances to the classrooms of rural schools, together we can make a difference and finally defeat garbage,” adds Rosa Trigo, CEO of Ecoembes.