Mediterranean Toxics-Free Tour crew update 2

Dutch activist reports from Carboneras Spain

Feature story - 26 October, 2002
Mariek, a Dutch activist on board the Esperanza, sends a first hand account of the Toxics Free Mediterranean tour to date, including a first hand account of their two actions in Spain.

File photo of the Esperanza.

Last night we sailed into French waters after ten days working in Spain with excellent volunteers and campaigners resulting in two actions, two press conferences and a lot of media attention.

The first action was a bit of a "beating on arrival" sort of thing. Our aim was to stop the loading of trucks in a cement factory on the coastal town of Carboneras. Holcim, the Swiss cement company, wants to fuel cement production with industrial ( = toxic ) waste. We wanted to get media attention on this otherwise very discrete, big money, business deal that has long lasting pollution as the unaccounted for side effect.

Tuesday morning, we run into the factory, our Spanish colleagues already had blocked the main entrance and got arrested just before we come in, the place is crowded by Guardia civil (civilian police) and except for our man Remon - three cheers for him - none of our eight activists makes it over the gate. The police are well trained in dealing with unwelcome immigrants, and we do feel that. Ai!

We spent an hour on the concrete outside the factory, face down, or for Gian Luca, face up in the hot sun of southern Spain. That's what you get when you stir up the crowd for a second run. After our time on the concrete we are, for eight hours, in the company of beer drinking and chain-smoking policemen in an old garage next to the station; there is no other place to put the thirty lose elements (us).

At ten, when almost everybody finally has gone through the full procedure of giving shoe sizes, fingerprints and having our pictures taken (from the front and side), a last bit of confusion starts. The policemen count and count us again but miss one person. Where is William? Mm, we know where Bill is. Bill asked the right person whether he was released now and left and got himself a beer at the pub opposite the police station. But here the show isn't over till it is really over, Bill has to come in again, we wait another little while for another final procedure. And then we all have a beer.

Although it was for me the shortest action I ever participated in, it was a successful one because of the great interest of the media. Now, questions are rising about the plan to burn toxic waste to make cement.

Another week, another town and another action. Tarragona is a town only an hours train ride from Barcelona. Barcelona is the city after which the convention to protect the Mediterranean from further pollution is called. The Barcelona Convention, so close, and implementation? So far away!

Here, in Tarragona, stands the only official hazardous waste incinerator in Spain, where people burn industrial waste. The idea of making waste disappear by burning it is a myth. For every three tons of garbage an average of one ton of ashes is produced, highly concentrated with pollutants such as heavy metals and PCB's. This ash becomes landfilled so that it leaches into the earth and the groundwater freely, or is, for example, mixed with cement that in the long run it has the same effect. Toxic gases spread out and create higher percentages of illnesses such as cancer and diabetes in areas around incineration plants.

Looking at the overall costs, incineration is not even economically sustainable and fuels dirty industries to do their business as usual. There are job-creating, environment saving ways to deal with the problem of waste: reuse, reduce, and recycle. And that is why we blocked the Tarragona plant for a big part of Tuesday, met up with way friendlier police than in the south, waited and looked at many slogans on the walls of the very smelly jail, added some of our own, finally got released, and celebrated the positive press.

Back on the ship. Thank you all!