On The Ground In Morocco

We are building up a great group of ambassadors around the planet, one of the most committed is Leanne Jones. She has spent the winter in Morocco, from where she has sent  this excellent dispatch about the real situation in the state of epic right points, forward thinking environmental legislation, but also the spectre of huge plastic pollution.

Morocco, when it comes to surf, is known for one thing, point breaks that throw off peeling right-handers. No matter how you get to the point, from the beach paddling the distance or jumping in from the rocks, no matter which break you are at, you’ll see it – that rubbish you dodge, too focused on getting in to give it any thought, but you know it’s there, the occasional unfortunate stab in the foot is an unwanted reminder. Glass and plastic being most common in the Taghazout area. I was surprised at the amount of smashed glass on the rocks at Anchors, but the amount of discarded plastic that scatters the region is astonishing. People in general seem to think that coastal rubbish is what’s left behind, which is part of the problem yes, but the main problem in this area is the disposal of general rubbish in the first place, or the lack of, meaning it gets left in the streets and ditches on the roadside, just waiting to get burnt or magically disappear.  Usually it is just being blown to the beaches or washed down to the sea in the rain.

The Moroccan government seems to be good at coming up with quick fixes that haven’t been thought through and are possibly making the situation worse.

-Tap water not safe to drink? No problem, we’ll sell it in one-use plastic bottles.

-Too many plastic bags littering the country? It’s cool, we’ll ban them completely, including bin bags, sounds good right? But let’s not offer an eco-friendly alternative either!

-No bin bags to put rubbish in? No worries, just leave it, it’ll disappear eventually.

Anyone else seeing the problem here?

Let’s start with the one-use bottles. These are a problem everywhere, but in places where tap water is likely to make you ill, there is no other choice than to buy a bottle of water, lots of bottles of water. When the water has been drunk, the bottles get binned, which leads me to the second problem, plastic bags. Morocco, having been the second largest consumer of plastic bags after America, has completely banned plastic bags as part of an effort to go green. Production, importing, selling and distribution all come with a hefty fine if caught doing so. Good on them for the most part, but the down side is that bin bags are included in the ban, leading to difficulty disposing household rubbish. People would typically, bag it, bin it and pay for collection, or transport the bags to a collection point, but with many people using the last of their plastic bags or not having anything at all to transport the rubbish in, and many not being able to afford a collection, it has resulted in many burning the rubbish, which is questionable, or just dumping it and that is when it ends up on the beaches and in the sea. This isn’t too surprising as it seems only 70% of solid waste is collected and less than 10% disposed of in an environmentaly acceptable way, yet the country imports waste from Italy to use to create fuel. Maybe a solution for the problem would be for the country to actually collect its own waste to use for fuel and recycle more. Lack of education amongst the Moroccan public about the environment, and the effect that littering and plastic is having on their country and coast, and the world, is a major factor in the problem, as with many countries. I feel that if they were more aware of the problem, many would care enough to move to help instead of ignorantly making the situation worse. Education and awareness goes a long way, which is what this project is about.

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A waterfall of plastic on the way to the ocean
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