For those of you who might not know where this lagoon is, Wikipedia calls the Mar Menor “Minor sea” or “Smaller Sea”. Is a coastal saltwater lagoon located in the south-east of the Autonomous Community of Murcia, Spain, near Cartagena.
Four municipalities lie adjacent to the Mar Menor: Cartagena, Los Alcázares, San Javier and San Pedro del Pinatar. With a surface area of nearly 170 km2, a coastal length of 70 km, and warm and clear water (not now, however) and no more than 7 metres in depth, it is the largest lagoon in Spain. Its relatively high salinity, which aids flotation, and remarkable sporting infrastructures makes it a popular place for a wide variety of water sports.
I remember the Mar Menor as a perfect lagoon where you could walk for many metres and the depth of the water would come up to your waist. A perfect place to take young children for a swim. Well, all that has gone down the drain due to the incompetence of our politicians, who have done nothing for years.
The main problem is the huge amount of nitrates and phosphates from the new extensive agricultural land that have proliferated in the region and that drain into the lagoon, causing most of the fish to die due to the lack of oxygen. The same is happening with all the plastic which is being dumped into the seas and oceans, and nothing is being done about it. Soon enough, we will have a massive Mar Menor on a global scale.
Plastics and more plastics
Most of the plastic that ends up in the sea comes from the great rivers of Asia and Africa, such as the Yangtze, the Indus, the Yellow River and the Nile, according to the Earthwatch Institute. But Europe is not far behind. In the freshwater ecosystems of our continent, these are the 10 most prevalent plastic objects:
Plastic bottles: 14%
Every minute one million plastic bottles are bought worldwide. In 2016 alone, it was 480,000 million. Recycle them Every time a bottle of water is recycled, landfills and extracting new raw materials are avoided. In addition, energy consumption and the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the main gases causing climate change, are reduced.
When you make a purchase, choose bulk products, and carry them in paper bags or cloth. Avoid foods packaged in plastic and polystyrene trays. Other ideas to banish plastic from your daily life little by little.
Containers account for 9% of the plastic waste that pollutes our waters and this speaks not only to the state of the environment, but also of our health. Smoking causes 30% of cancers, 20% of cardiovascular diseases and 80% of chronic obstructive diseases.
Food containers: 6%
Each year, eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean, which might seem a small amount compared to the nearly 300 million tons that are manufactured. But its impact on marine life is huge. Plastic takes many years to degrade, so it accumulates and every year there is more and more plastic in the ocean.
Cotton swabs: 5%
The days of the single-use plastic stick are numbered, as they will be banned from 2021, at least in Europe. These daily beauty products not only present a problem from the point of view of waste. In addition, some marine species ingest them, causing serious injuries. The ecological option is to use durable accessories or use the towel.
Take-away cups: 4%
Better to have a traditional and reusable glass. Today there are many options of style and performance; there are thermally-resistant and with different capacities to enjoy your favourite drinks at the ideal temperature. You can also buy stainless steel straws or made with biodegradable materials, such as avocado.
Hygiene items: 3%
Every time you throw an old toothbrush in the bin, which dentists advise us to do every three months, it ends up in landfills or in the ocean. In one case or another, it will take hundreds of years to decompose, with the consequent damage to the planet. The alternative is to use a bamboo brush, a more degradable material that disappears in about six months. Discover here other tips to make your beauty routine more sustainable.
Cigarettes filter tips: 2%
If cigarette butts pose a serious problem for the environment, tobacco containers are not far behind. If you decide to smoke, recycle the packets. Remember that the data on plastic contamination is scandalous and, in addition, difficult to hide: it is everywhere and its presence can no longer be hidden.
Straws and cutlery: 1%
If you can’t give up single-use cutlery, choose wooden cutlery, which is also compostable. Check the labels of these organic forks and spoons, since if you want to protect the environment, there are brands that donate a portion of their sales to environmental causes. It is also important to make sure that they are made of sustainable wood and that they are 100% biodegradable.
Plastic bags: 1%
The advice when you go shopping is the same as above: take your paper or cloth bag to avoid using plastic ones. Some stores offer bags made of vegetable fibres, such as starch or potato starch, and there are also bags with seeds that can be planted when broken[dd1] .
Prevention is better than cure, and the Mar Menor is just a foretaste of what is to come on a global scale if we don’t take action now.