Mediterranean Toxics-Free Tour crew update 1

Ship's cook reports from Tarragona, Spain

Feature story - 25 October, 2002
As we sailed into the Mediterranean Sea a few weeks ago, the first thing that struck me was all the garbage floating around the ship. We were starting to identify the often sighted bottle-fish and plastic bag-turtles between beautiful pilot whales and dolphins. It's really not funny at all. It's the sad story of the Mediterranean.

Amanda, Greenpeace cook for the MV Esperanza.

One might think that after seeing so much waste in the sea there would not be too much left elsewhere, but there is. Many of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea have no working system for recycling and reducing the waste they produce. So they burn it!! This is creating even more problems with dangerous emissions.

On our ships we have very careful waste management and we live by the words: reduce, reuse, recycle. Beautiful words and a necessity for clean living not only on this ship but also on the planet.

We are presently in Tarragona in Spain, about a one-hour train ride from Barcelona. We are here to create awareness, to spread information about how toxics get released into nature, and hopefully to inspire people to act against it.

We have had a number of open-ship days, and Sunday at one point as I looked out from the ship there was a loooong line of people waiting to come and see our ship and hear about our work. Brilliant!! There are some wonderful, hardworking Spanish volunteers here to help us show people around and to tell them about the ship and our work. Usually this is something I love to do myself but my Spanish is more or less limited to "Ya soy la cusinera" (I am the cook) and I'm afraid I won't inspire anyone with those words.

Tuesday (October 22) was a different kind of day; Greenpeace made a non-violent direct action (as we often do) at the Constantí incinerator in Tarragona, Spain. Thirty-three activists blocked the gates. This place is a good example of a bad thing: these monstrous burners should not be allowed. The air is filled with a strong toxic smell, there is even a sign that warns of radioactive waste(!!) and everything but the kitchen sink is getting burned.

The toxin-filled smoke is released into the air and the ashes into the soil. The toxins now have an easy way to reach the ground waters as well and - voila! -- they have managed to pollute every element of the nature.

So what is in these emissions, one might ask? Well some substances identified in smoke and waste from incinerators are heavy metals, PCBs and dioxin, just to give a brief picture. And it is not a pretty picture. These toxic substances are going straight into the food chain.

How can the politicians here live with this system? Some people even promote

incinerators as a green option to solve the growing waste problem created by modern living. But you do not get rid of it. You create an even bigger problem and greater health problems. All when the solution quite easy. We need to:

Reduce Reuse Recycle.

On the ship we have our trash cleaned out, compressed and sorted, but our garbage space is getting full and we need to get rid of some of it so we asked a police officer,

who was passing by the ship, if he knew of a way we could responsibly dispose of it. He answered: there's an incinerator just a bit away from here. Well, I don't think so!!!

Amanda Bjur is the cook on board the MV Esperanza for the Mediterranean Toxics-free Tour.