THE Costa del Sol has its very own Greta Thunberg. To mark World Earth Day on April 22, Fiona Govan catches up with a teenage environmentalist from Mijas who is encouraging locals to help her rid the seas of plastic pollution.
At only 17-years-old, schoolgirl Nikki Wegloop is already president of a charitable foundation and is convinced that she has the power to save the world, or at least clean up her corner of it.
“It’s extraordinary how much you can achieve with a group of volunteers in just a few hours,” she tells the Olive Press by phone as she rides the school bus home to Mijas Costa.
“When you first get to the beach you think ‘oh it’s quite clean’ but then you look closer and you start to see all the waste, it renders you speechless really. We collect anything between 300 and 800 kilos of plastic rubbish in one session, it really is amazing.”
Nikki and her mother Natasha are the Dutch pair behind MiMoana – My Sea in Hawaiian – an organisation that works with town halls to organise beach clean ups that take place on different playas across the Costa del Sol each month.
“Earth Day is a great opportunity to act and start to make longer term changes to help the planet,” urges Natasha Wegloop.
“If hundreds of people on the Costa del Sol pick up just a few pieces of litter each this Earth Day, together they will make a big difference and we will be able to see the benefit to our local area and environment.
“We also recommend thinking about your plastic footprint on Earth Day, educating yourself about the alternatives and taking steps to reduce the plastics you use on a day-to-day basis. Every little really does help!”
Each month Mi Moana organizes teams of volunteers to comb the beach collecting detritus and divers scour the marine floor, bagging up the rubbish for recycling.
“We recently picked up 800kg of wet wipes that came through a sewage pipe and collected around the galleon, a popular dive site off the beach in Marbella,” explained Natasha, who has been working as an estate agent after arriving in Spain 14 years ago.
“People don’t seem to realise that wet wipes aren’t biodegradable, whatever the packet says, and they float around for years and years,” Natasha bemoans.
“We also find a lot of q-tips and endless cigarette butts littered across the beach – sometimes 600 to 700 butts on one stretch of beach. And these contain plastics.”
The pandemic has also brought new challenges. “When lockdown first happened there was obvious improvement, the beaches were cleaner because people couldn’t go. But now we find discarded masks, plastic gloves and small plastic bottles used to contain hand sanitizer,” said Nikki who admits she feels different from most people her age, who are more interested in taking selfies to post on social media.
“When I go to a place and look around I don’t see the beauty anymore, I see the rubbish. When I dive, it’s not the fish I notice first but the plastic floating around them,” she says.
But there are still reasons to be optimistic.
“I feel like we can make a difference. As a society we are improving slowly, there is still a lot of work to do but more and more people are joining in and adopting the right mind set. We just organise the event, it’s the volunteers that come and do all the hard work.”
Beach clear up events take place across the Costa del Sol every month. For more information and to sign up to future events visit MiMoana facebook page.
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