Fighting plastic pollution in Cabo Verde

Collecting and recycling of plastics in Cabo Verde  

Education of youngsters and preservation of the island biodiversity

Despite its geographical isolation, Cabo Verde is suffering from a constant pollution made of plastic debris carried by the oceanic current. They accumulate mostly on the eastern shores of the archipelago. Those debris are a permanent threat to the marine fauna and the biodiversity of the islands.


Mix of fishing nets and plastics debris on an Eastern beach of Sal Island 

The combination of the Canary marine current (along the African coast) and the trade winds pushes a constant flow of debris, which are mainly produced by the international fishing industry: containers, fishing nets and plastic bottles mostly represent 90% of the collected debris (containers, fishing nets, bottles, floating devices, etc…), which are being thrown in the sea or simply discarded by fishermen.

The responsibility is shared by a wide range of fishing corporations from a multitude of non-African countries, that are being drawn by the fertile waters of the North-Western African coast.

The steep development of tourism in Cabo Verde fuels coastal constructions and hence the reduction of the natural nesting zone of turtles (Caretta caretta), which already need to find their way through sometimes lethal plastic obstacles.

Marine debris are not only a permanent threat to turtles, lighter ones are being spread over the inner ground by the trade winds, contaminate the environment and affect the bio-diversity.

Since 2015, Calao has been collecting more than 16 tons of debris on Sal islands western beaches with the support of volunteers and the Municipality (transport). As no dialog has been yet possible with the fishing industry, our mission needs to be maintained until sustainable fishing practices are being imposed internationally.

 Calao plans for 2019

    Photos copyright: Precious Plastics & Oceanario de Lisboa (Portugal)

  1. As our cleaning actions has led us to look for a sustainable methodology to recycle marine debris (which so far are being discarded into a landfill like all solid wastes in the island), we have decided to build a recycling unit, using plastics generated by the tourism industry (mainly from hotels and restaurants, using PET and HDPE, which are easier to recycle). Thanks to the support of the Luxembourg Ministry of Environment and the precious help of our local partner CODE CV, Calao is building the first recycling unit of plastics in Sal island. With a very simple and cost-effective set-up, we will transform this plastic into raw material and produce new objects, hence generating revenues for the unemployed population. We intend to start the production phase in December 2019.
  2. Calao has always considered education as a guarantee of sustainability for its actions. Alongside our environmental operations, we are launching an ambitious program for local schools. With the support of the Sal Municipality and our partner Oceanario de Lisboa (Portugal) and CODE CV, we will organise classes on recycling, plastic pollution and its impact on biodiversity to 6 to 12 year-old children in public and private schools. Our partner CODE CV will start the teachers’ training in October 2019.
  3. As long as sustainable fishing practices are not being imposed internationally, the flow of marine debris is doomed to last in the medium-term. We intend to maintain our monthly beach cleanings and are looking for concepts to recycle some of those debris, which would not require clean water, a precious resource in Cabo Verde.

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