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Thumbs up for test drive of organic waste recycling programme on Formentera

Foto recollida organica bar centroThe Formentera Council's Office of Environment reports that from June to September, a four-month pilot programme across fifty businesses and other establishments in Sant Francesc meant that 100 tonnes of organic waste were collected for recycling.

The list of participants included bars, cafés, hotels, supermarkets, a hospital and a school — all considered producers of substantial quantities of waste. Each one was given special, small bins which crews picked up on nightly door-to-door collection runs.

Environment secretary Daisee Aguilera thanked participating businesses for their efforts, which made for a savings of €167 per tonne —or €16,700 over all— by reducing the waste that is treated and shipped to Eivissa.

Councillor Aguilera pointed to other benefits too, like a programme at the Formentera treatment plant that will supply local farms with compost. Organic matter and a special mixture of tree clippings to add structure are allowed to mature during a four-month process that ultimately produces compost for farmers of the island.

According to Aguilera the idea behind the initiative —repurposing organic waste to create a product apt for local fields— is “zero waste production”. Council personnel with specialist training have described the quality of the compost (participants are urged to set aside organic waste alone) as “very good”.

The €80,000 programme is paid for by the Formentera Council and a €32,000 grant by the Leader group. On the back of the programme's bumper response, the Council is studying expanding the organic rubbish recycling programme across other “big rubbish producers” on the island.

Formentera launches push to swap out contaminant

Foto presentacio campanya fibrocimentThe Formentera Council's Office of Environment unveiled details of a campaign encouraging individuals and households around the island to remove asbestos fibre cement in their homes. “Our hope,” said environment secretary Daisee Aguilera, “is that islanders make the decision to rid their homes of materials containing asbestos, and that they do it safely. It is not only harmful to human health, but to the environment as well.”

Interested parties can sign up today through January 15 on the Virtual Citizen's Information Office website (conselldeformentera.cat) or in person at the environment office on carrer Mallorca in Sant Ferran.

The Council is subsidising removal of related materials, transport to specialised plants on the Spanish mainland and the special bags used in the process. Initial removal costs, which vary based on the kind and size of material involved, must be covered by home-owners, though bills will reflect a reduction in the final payment due.

Factoring in subsidies on payments, the cost per 100 kilograms of materials removed is as follows: €40 for asbestos plaques; €80 for small pieces; and €150 for reservoirs.

Secretary Aguilera pointed out that Spain's ban on the sale and production of fibre-cement containing asbestos dates back to 2002. Materials containing asbestos are considered extremely dangerous due to component chemicals that pose serious health risks.

The removal effort will be headed up by Ca Na Negreta. Specialist José Antonio Pérez announced work would begin January 15. Prior to rollout, agents of Formentera's Office of Environment will run a cost study based on surveys of potential participants. The asbestos-removal push was unanimously approved by Formentera's plenary assembly in August.

Two Formentera girls celebrated for waste-water reuse ideas

Foto entrega premis aqualiaEnvironment councillor Daisee Aguilera, Eduardo de Castillo, chief of Aqualia's regional branch, and Maria del Mar Yern, head of Formentera's municipal water service, gathered today in the CiF hall of ceremonies to award a waterproof camera to the finalists in a contest hosted by the water management company.

The pair of primary school pupils —Agnès Escandell Ribas of Sant Ferran de Ses Roques and Kiara Berzategui Hammer of Mestre Lluís Andreu— were chosen out of 8,500 school children across Spain and Portugal by virtue of their ideas on reusing waste water.

This year's slogan was “Mission: Purification”. For the occasion, year three and four primary students had the opportunity to embark on a sidereal journey across the marvellous world of water purification and reuse.

The premise, explained the Aqualia chief, is “to get children to understand what happens to water, from when they use it at home to its return to nature after purification, as well as the breadth of uses that exist for recycled water.” Hence the idea to enlist the youngsters to creatively imagine what their own sustainable planet would look like.

Councillor Aguilera congratulated the two prize-winners and thanked Aqualia and Formentera's schools for their involvement, calling the initiative “a fun, creative and educational way to promote responsible water use”.

Ses Salines canal cleanup

Neteja canal ses salinesDaisee Aguilera, head of the Formentera Council's Office of Environment says a recent cleanup of the ses Salines canal was aimed at “ensuring the free flow of water and preventing the loss of ornithological biodiversity”. The operations were conducted in the underground portion of the canal extending from the commercial dock of the Balearic port authority (APB), adjacent to the Formentera Mar tower, to the salterns behind carrer Gregal in la Savina, known as Salines Ferrer.

Over 13 days, a four-person crew —one foreman plus specialists in prevention, quality and environment— extricated 650 cubic metres (m3) of sewage sludge and slurry and 12m3 of solid waste from a 150-metre stretch of canal. Nearly two decades of buildup had, in Aguilera's words, made the task “very necessary”. Although such measures are not within the Council's purview, “unblocking the canal and restoring the flow of water was urgent, so we acted”. The canal serves to funnel rainwater to the sea and prevent its entering estany Pudent and nearby salt ponds.

Aguilera hopes such efforts will help encourage other branches of public administration to adopt conservation measures as well. The secretary described Formentera's salterns as emblematic.

Operations included:
-Clearing vegetation from uncovered portion of canal to allow for access
-Ventilating manholes and repositories
-Daily oxygen-level checks
-Equipping the underground gallery with lighting
-Sealing off portions of the canal to prevent leaks into groundwater
-Draining tanker truck of water and sludge
-Manual removal of solid waste
-Pressure washing to remove solidified slurry, sand and gravel
-Vacuuming loosened material with tanker truck
-Breaking up and removal of blocked passages to restore flow of water

Posidonia Forum

Taula redona mmaa sppToday saw the celebration of Posidonia Forum, part of Save Posidonia Project, a festival which takes place October 12-15 on Formentera. Opening words were spoken by the Formentera Council's vice-president, Susana Labrador, who reminded crowds that the festival was put on by the administration in support of a broader effort, Year of Sustainable Tourism.

Labrador called the gathering “a deep-dive into posidonia” and a look at “the threats posed to it and challenges facing conservation,” all part of an effort to make tourism and environmental conservation compatible. Pilar Costa, secretary of the president's office of the Govern balear, also gave welcoming words, thanking the Formentera Council for carrying the project forward and highlighting the Palma administration's own work to bring together tourism and environmentally responsible policies, such as the “sustainable tourism tax” (Impost de Turisme Sostenible).

Talks and round-tables
All day long experts in the field gave conferences on tourism and the environment. Of five morning events, the first, on innovation and technology, was conducted via video with a representative of the World Tourism Organisation. Next came talks by Pierre-Yves Cousteau and biologist Manu San Félix, the former describing a project dubbed Cousteau Divers on Formentera and the latter sharing with audiences his own personal trajectory in “From Formentera to National Geographic”. Greenpeace's Elvira Giménez led a discussion on plastics in world oceans, now and in the future, and Clara Calatayud closed the morning series with a talk about “The shark Odissey” subtitled “Ecotourism and the search for conservation”.

Afterwards, a round-table discussion on tourism had the participation of Ms Calatayud, Xàbia mayor José Chulvi, Cabildo del Hierro's vice-president Juan Pedro Sánchez, Govern balear ministry of tourism spokesman Pere Muñoz, president of Formentera's league of hotels, Vicent Tur, and the island's tourism minister, Alejandra Ferrer. Panelists discussed the importance of environmental safeguards when developing so-called “ecotourist” products.

The programme resumed at 3.00pm with WWF's Oscar Esparza, who unpacked some of the efforts afoot in Spain to protect marine life. Raquel Vaquer-Sunyer, of IMEDEA, tried to get at the question of what we know about posidonia today, and GEN-GOB's Francisco Sobrado gave a talk framing the sea as “a shared responsibility”. Guillem Roca spoke to audiences about “observers of the seas” while Irene Díez gave a presentation called “Upcycling the Oceans” in which the Ecoalf representative talked about the promise of an initiative of the circular economy making rubbish fashionable.

Afterwards came a round-table discussion on the environment that included former Oceana president Xavier Pastor, Raul José Alvarez of the Ghostfishing project, GEN-GOB's Marià Marí, Elvira García, of the directorate general of coasts and the sea, Marta Castelló, chief of the Eivissa-Formentera Ses Salines nature preserve and environment secretary Daisee Aguilera. The panel of experts spoke in unison about the need for reverse growth in protecting the environment and why education and outreach will be key to tackling challenges on the horizon.

Anchorage on Formentera's seaboard
For her part, CiF environment secretary Daisee Aguilera used forum to unveil an initiative focussed on anchoring boats and the ability of Formentera's seaboard to accommodate them.

According to Aguilera, the proposal currently awaiting review by the Govern balear is based first on physically measurable criteria—“quantification of sand, current posidonia mapping and, in contested areas, expanded swimming zones that stretch 200 metres outward from the coast”—and second on environmental factors (placing anchors or buoys on posidonia is expressly prohibited, for instance). Aguilera described the creation of “a 10-metre buffer zone between posidonia meadows and the shore ensure the plant is safe from chains and anchors as they are dragged about”.

The Council proposes is a variable system of controls whereby anchorage is permitted in offshore areas with vast stretches of open sand, such as Cala Saona, but subject to measures such as the so-called “eco-buoys” in areas closer to posidonia meadows, like the beaches at Illetes. The number of ships that can drop anchor will depend on three factors (size, weather conditions and wind flow) and will be administered through an online system of pay reservations. Visitors to the website will also be able to consult an up-to-the-minute feed with the number of ships allowed to drop anchor.

Boats will be required to register across an online platform that enables checks that payment and registration has occurred. Secretary Aguilera launched a call for “a simpler, easier system of fines based on the size of offending ships” and looked ahead to the inclusion of posidonia meadows in nautical maps”.

Lastly, Aguilera stressed that any system of checks would need to include a recycling and waste collection programme for watercraft. The system of pay would be based on the weight and associated management costs of the rubbish collected.

Closing ceremony
The forum's closing ceremony was led by Govern vice-president and tourism secretary Biel Barceló, who highlighted his office's ardent support for the Save Posidonia Project, including presentations in Germany, France and Italy and press trips with German and Spanish journalists to marshal awareness of the project and how funding will be used.

According to Barceló, it is a project that “fits perfectly with our strategy on sustainable tourism development, the point of which is to make tourism compatible with the environment and quality of life for residents of the areas”. In addition, he stressed the significance of the project given the designation of 2017 as International Year for Sustainable Tourism. It bears remembering that the Save Posidonia Project also received recognition from the Govern as the year's best sustainable tourism initiative.

Alejandra Ferrer, Formentera's vice-president and tourism secretary, gave closing comments as well. In it, she highlighted some of the challenges ahead, such as regulating anchorage, effluent runoff, improperly disposed of plastics and waste management.

Said the secretary: “Sustainability is no longer an option; it is an imperative. We must continue working to ensure Formentera remains one of the best options for travellers, as a holiday destination, and for our children, as a home”. To get there, Ferrer called on public institutions, the private sector and the public to protect local ecosystems and posidonia. “The Mediterranean's very biodiversity depends on it,” she said.

Also noteworthy were three visual art shows by Elena Urizar that took place during the day. For all the details, visit the festival's website at www.saveposidoniaproject.org. The programme continues through Sunday.

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