AS long ago as 2005 did environmentalists warn of the potential damage wrought by plasticultra.

And for almost three years, regional authorities have been aware that more than 30 per cent of the plastic greenhouses – which have continued their westwards spread from the coast of Almería into Granada and Málaga – have been erected illegally.

Currently, no health or environmental legislation exists to control greenhouses, which grow year-round fruit and vegetables for supermarkets in many European countries.

And this, according to environmentalists Ecologistas en Accion, is detrimental to not only Spain’s southern coast, but the health of the local population.

According to 2006 census figures, more than 200,000 people live between the ‘greenhouse capitals’ of Campo de Dalias and El Ejido in Almería and the area immediately east of Motril.

“Residue from these invernaderos (plastic greenhouses) causes serious health problems. With the combustion of the plastics, cacogenic elements are released into the atmosphere.

“There have even been instances of greenhouse owners using banned pesticides,” a spokesman for Ecologistas en Accion said.

Earlier this year, the Olive Press reported on supermarkets in Germany, Turkey and the UK clearing their shelves of green peppers after a plastic greenhouse in El Ejido was found using a pesticide unauthorised in the European Union.

Every summer, greenhouse owners install new plastic covering, which the green group warned, is rarely sent away to specialist recycling plants.

Instead, it is often burnt on wasteland, sending dangerous – and fatal – dioxins into the air.

A letter in this issue (35) claims this activity is continuing in certain parts of the Granada province.

Greenhouses in Almería produce 30,000 tonnes of plastic and organic waste per year. Ecologistas en Accion claim this is often dumped in the countryside, creating illegal tips that permit the escape of pesticides into not only the atmosphere but also aquifers.

There have also been claims this waste has found its way into the sea.

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