The mission: picking up trash on a stretch of the Praia do Futuro (Beach of the Future in Fortaleza, Brazil). Sponsored by the Cleaning the World Organization, volunteers gathered together with gloves to protect their hands, clipboards to record their progress, and bags to be filled, as they prepared to begin cleaning up the beach.
For a little over an hour, over forty pounds of trash were removed. More than 1,871 pieces of solid waste were collected including large amounts of plastic which is referred to as “the villain,” according to Juaci Araújo, the main coordinator of the Cleaning the World Organization. The goal of the project is mainly to remove solid residue which has been improperly discarded along the areas surrounding the beach.
During the clean-up, the coordinators talked with local beach goers and merchants. “Our project is a mix of action and reflection. Our goal is to develop an environmental education for these children,” said Juaci. The project was created in 2013, as an initiative of the Association for Research and Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems (Aquasis), with support from the Social Service of Commerce (SESC).
Among the volunteers was eight year old Maria Eduarda who attended the clean-up day for the first time. “It is important to clean the beach and have less people polluting,” she says. Besides volunteering to clean up the beach, Eduarda attended the local surf school.
Members of the Women’s Association of Surfing and the Dragões do Mar project were also invited to the clean-up day. “Our organization promotes physical exercise through surfing, psychological counseling, and physical education, but today reinforces the importance of environmental awareness and environmental protection,” says Raphaela Bahia, surfer and owner of Surf School.
Juaci explains that in the beginning of the project, they mapped all social projects that were connected to the beach and youth service. From there, they assembled a network of 600 volunteers, including sixteen associations in seven municipalities of Ceará, covering twenty beaches in total. By April of last year the organization had collected over eighteen tons of trash.
“Local pollution is a problem that impacts fisheries, the economy and tourism. What is missing is basically a matter of education and a more efficient policy. Laws exist, but they lack oversight,” says the project coordinator.
Of the collected material, only about 10% is recyclable in the condition in which it is found. There are partnerships with recycling cooperatives and local scavengers. However Juaci points out that the rest of what is collected goes to the dump, “…which is also wrong. The entire trade economy, industry and outlying parts of cities such as favelas need to participate in the recycling network. They need to be integrated in this cycle. Pollution is an urgent problem,” he warns.
What challenges does your city face in preventing pollution and promoting recycling?
Original article, originally published in Portuguese, here.
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.