Urbaser has decided to collaborate with the largest scientific study ever developed on the impact of microplastics on the ecosystem of the Canary Islands´ seabeds.

September 2020, web copy

  • The seabed off the Canary Islands will be the site chosen to develop the most ambitious research project on microplastics in the islands.
  • The studies carried out to date determine the abundant presence of microplastics on the beaches of the archipelago, but not on the seabed.

This project is linked to the commitment that Urbaser maintains with sustainable development and the SDG 14-Underwater life, with the aim to analyse the presence of microplastics in the marine sediments of the islands of Tenerife, Gran Canaria, La Gomera, La Palma, El Hierro, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and La Graciosa. The outcomes of the research will provide the first data on the accumulation and distribution of microplastics on the seabed of the Canary coasts.

Luis Martínez, Director of Urbaser in the Canary Islands, states: “The data and information resulting from this study will be decisive in take action on the impact that microplastics have on the biodiversity of the archipelago. The Canary Islands have a unique marine ecosystem that we must take care of and Urbaser is firmly committed to this”.

To achieve this, a scientific group of experts’ leaders in the study of microplastics in the Canary Islands (ACHEM, Applied Analytical Chemistry Research Group, from La Laguna University) will take samples of materials from the seabed in different locations at depths between 10 and 50 meters from the coast.
Furthermore, the samples will be send to laboratories for identification, classification and analysis.

The presence of microplastics on the seabed

The release of plastics into the marine environment is a major environmental problem with serious implications to human health and marine biodiversity. It is estimated that 90% of the marine litter that floats in the sea is plastic.

In this sense, the geographic location of the Canary archipelago makes it one of the locations most susceptible location of marine litter arrival, particularly plastics, from Europe, since all the plastic that is throwing into the sea in Europe, North Africa and the east coast of the United States are dragging by the Gulf Stream to their coasts.

The studies carried out so far determine the abundant presence of microplastics, particles whose size is less than 5 mm, on Canarian beaches. However, it has been found that certain plastics´ density is greater than seawater, which implies that they sink and do not reach the coasts making the collection and cleaning works more difficult.

Currently, there are no studies on the situation of the seabed in the Canary Islands. Their real state and the consequences that their conditions imply are unknown. In this sense, the Canary archipelago is called to become one of the main observatories of this issue worldwide, as well as a pioneering enclave of studies, projects and initiatives aimed at protecting, combating and reversing this alarming reality.

Environmental scenario

This project starts at the perfect point in time; with the recent approval of the Declaration of Climate Emergency and the forthcoming approval of the Canary Islands Law on Climate Change. It is an ambitious regulatory text that aims to place the islands at the national forefront in environmental management matters and with very ambitious objectives in this area.

In this sense, the project promoted by Urbaser and by the Diario de Avisos Foundation is aligned with the decision of the European Parliament taken last year in which prohibits single-use plastics such as plates, cutlery, straws and cotton buds from 2021. Likewise, in 2025 the member states will have to recycle 25% of the plastic in plastic bottles and 30% in 2030.