Shock reports in the global media about how plastic has been found in human poo – and every one of us eats it – have turned the tides for those who thought pollution was just a ‘fish problem’: at every meal, we munch our way through 100 pieces of microplastic, and these take 1,000 years to break down. So, if we don’t pass it, we’ll have to wait until the year 3018 for the plastic we ate in our last meal to vanish.
Already, a million marine birds and 100,000 sea mammals die every year because of plastic pollution, with up to 700 species being on the verge of extinction and 90% of those still alive thought to have plastic inside them.
Recent harrowing footage on the BBC showed a Shearwater feeding plastic to her chicks, mistaking it for food, leaving the babies so weighed down by the substance that they were unable to fly.
Sports and entertainment stars in Spain say no to plastic
Now, Spanish celebrities have enlisted for the war on plastic, and their Twitter campaign is going viral.
National Geographic España has called upon big names in the sports and art worlds to answer the question, “Planet or plastic?” and ‘put themselves in the shoes of sea turtles’, by tweeting a photograph of them eating plastic.
They then have to ‘nominate’ their friends, ideally other celebs, to do likewise, citing the hashtag #YoElijoPlaneta (‘I choose planet’).
Footballers fight plastic pollution
Spanish national team goalkeeper Iker Casillas – currently living in Portugal with his TV presenter wife Sara Carbonero following his 2015 transfer to Oporto – was was nominated by ex-Valencia CF and current New York City FC centre-forward David Villa, along with Barcelona-born Cesc Fàbregas, central midfielder for Chelsea FC, and ex-Barça and current Vissel Kobe FC midfielder Andrés Iniesta (second picture).
Actress Marta Haza, from the film Pancho, el Perro Millonario (‘Pancho, the millionaire dog’) and popular TV series including El Internado and Velvet, Fernando Tejero from the ratings-grabbing sitcoms Aquí no hay quién viva and La que se avecina, Natalia Verbeke from the 2002 film El otro lado de la cama (‘The other side of the bed’), and Clara Lago (third picture), who played Amaia in Spain’s record-breaking blockbuster Ocho apellidos vascos (‘Eight Basque surnames’) have all been seen on Twitter eating plastic carrier bags and ‘choosing the planet’.
Operación Triunfo presenter Roberto Leal, fronting the pop-idol reality show in its 16th year, and actress Maribel Verdú (Pan’s Labyrinth and Y tu mamá también, with Gael García Bernal) have also joined the #YoElijoPlaneta move, along with Spanish-Lebanese actress Hiba Abouk, who has been gracing our TV screens for the last four years in the highly-topical series El Príncipe, in which a young police officer infiltrates a suspected ISIS cell.
Alejandro Sanz, an active campaigner at the time of the Galicia Prestige oil-spill disaster and better-known to non-Spanish fans for his duets with Shakira – La Tortura and Te lo agradezco pero no – nominated Fernando Tejero and flamenco-pop household name Niña Pastori to chew bin-bags on Twitter, and Spain’s 2010 Eurovision contestant Pastora Soler – who, coming 10th, achieved the highest position yet for the country in decades – nominated 1990s’ pop icon and The Voice coach Mónica Naranjo.
Who else is campaigning?
Earlier this year, ‘Almodóvar Girl’ Penélope Cruz – best known to English-speaking fans for her roles in Vanilla Sky, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Blow, and All the pretty horses – published a video of the results of public-sector workers in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, spending three days clearing plastic from the sea: three tonnes of it heaped up, and barely a dent made on the sheer volume of waste floating around beneath the waves.
Her husband, Skyfall ‘Bond villain’ Javier Bardem (fourth picture), went out on a ‘plastic patrol’ boat in May off the coast of Blanes (Girona province) and returned with massive amounts of rubbish pulled up by fishing net: parts of pipes, bottles, golf balls and deflated footballs, as well as the usual bags and packets.
Spanish celebrities supporting the anti-plastic pollution charity Oceana include veteran pop-rocker Miguel Bosè and model Almudena Fernández, who has been the face of Hermès, Givenchy, Carolina Herrera and Cartier.
Non-Spanish celebs backing Oceana include Barbra Streisand, Pierce Brosnan, Sting and Harrison Ford.
Beyond Spain, singer Moby, Brazilian model Gisele Bündchen, and British chimp expert and Prince of Asturias Prize winner Jane Goodall has joined the #BeatThePlastic campaign against the use of disposable plastic bags and other material.
Resident Evil’s Sienna Guillory may have been spotted by fans in August whilst filming Martín Rosete’s forthcoming production Remember Me in Madrid and Navarra – along with Almodóvar’s Kika, Verónica Forqué – but certainly wouldn’t have been seen with a Mercadona carrier bag in her hand. She has joined Greenpeace’s campaign to urge retailers to shun disposable plastic.
“Supermarkets make 800,000 tonnes of poisonous single-use plastic packaging a year. I’ve just told supermarket bosses I don’t want any more; will you join me?” Sienna tweeted two months ago.
Results filter through
And all this celebrity campaigning is working. Six in 10 consumers in Spain now take their own reusable bags to the supermarket, and seven in 10 separate plastic from the rest of their household rubbish for recycling – even when their nearest ‘yellow bin’ is over a 10-minute walk away, as is the case in some towns.
More than half of Spanish shoppers would choose products with biodegradable packaging if they could – even if this meant paying more for them.
And 43% complain of ‘pointless packaging’ in supermarkets which could have been avoided, particularly on the fruit and vegetable counters.
Consumer organisation OCU says so far, only 11% would avoid buying products involving disposable plastic, and that an ‘information deficit’ among shoppers still exists about the consequences of plastic waste – despite 92% of respondents to its survey recognising that pollution is a massive issue for the environment.
Recycle plastic if you can’t avoid it
The OCU urges consumers to buy products lose, by weight, where possible, and to avoid using plastic plates and cutlery, wet-wipes, cotton buds and drinking straws.
And in practically the whole of Spain, tap water is drinkable – you can often avoid buying bottled water, even in bars: in many regions, including Madrid and Andalucía, cafés and restaurants are obliged to provide glasses of water rather than bottles on request.
Hopefully, more regions will follow suit: bottles of water are among the biggest offenders in terms of plastic pollution, given that a million of them are bought every year worldwide.
Where disposable plastic really cannot be avoided due to lack of alternatives, recycling is vital: milk and juice cartons, wrappers, carrier bags and even drinks cans and food tins – such as for tuna and sardines – can be deposited in the ‘yellow bins’.
Look out for the recycling sign, an arrowed ‘yin-and-yang’ symbol, on all items before you throw them out – you’ll be amazed at how much potential rubbish carries this, and how genuine household waste shrinks to a fraction after removing plastics.
Recycling banks specifically for clothing, glass, cooking oil and paper or cardboard are very well indicated, but the ‘yellow bin’ is often a mystery to householders.
In a nutshell, any item of rubbish bearing the recycling symbol and which is not obviously glass, paper or cardboard goes in the ‘yellow bin’.