Plastics & Pollution From Dakar to Recife: Meeting the Locals

December 2, 2015

It has been six days since we arrived in Recife. Two days later, the 28th we said goodbye to Sea Dragon. The day following our arrival we immediately checked into the Port Authority and Customs, all together with our passports in hand which took a few hours.  For most ports usually the captain alone makes this trip with the vessel’s documentation and passports but Recife is definitely not boat friendly and has little infrastructure for visiting yachts. After our science talk which entailed giving Diana a lock of our hair to be analysed for mercury, and cleaning Sea Dragon we departed. Our new pad was a lovely rented house in Olinda, a smaller town just north of Recife 7 miles.  We were eager to relax, take longer showers and eat the foods we so missed.

Most of the Ascension team have left these past two days.  More women have arrived for the Amazon trip and filling in the beds of the others . The last four days a few of us have completely immersed ourselves in Brazilian culture. There is the samba & forro music which they have started practising for carnival in Feb. The tapioca sweet and savoury foods are delicious. Tapioca flour, or manioc flour is made from a woody shrub known as cassava, manioc or yuca, a native shrub of South America. The dried & shredded meat called carne desfiada is also a yummy dish.

We managed to have a day at a lovely beach 1.5 hours south, two talks at local schools , beach clean-up yesterday, diving today and tomorrow a presentation by Diana and Emily Penn at the University. I have now collapsed on a couch to write my last blog to finish what I started exactly four weeks ago November 3rd.

A big thanks to Justin Bloom, Founder of Suncoast Waterkeeper in Sarasota, Florida who gave me a contact in Dakar that I was able to interview.

Mbaake Seck is the Executive Director of Hann Baykeeper. In 2006 he joined the Waterkeeper Alliance but started to fight pollution in 1998. He mentioned during that time people did not take him seriously. They do now. Mbaake

recently won a National Award for his efforts. The Hann Baykeepers are a local group who clean the beach and are working to fight the pollution in the bay.

Our meeting took place at the very beach Sea Dragon was anchored off and sad to say it was one of the most polluted beaches I have ever seen. We, Diana, Christine and I did not have to walk very far before we first smelled and then saw a stream of plastic and garbage.

Mbaake told us there was also raw sewage in the stream that emptied into the bay which is about 13 miles long with Dakar and 4  very large towns along it.  80% of all the factories in Senegal are next to it which was no surprise when he said at times there is a mile long of dead fish on the beach and people have various types of problems from swimming in the bay. (skin, diarrhoea, coughing). The good news is the European Union will be spending 68 million to clean the bay. I am now curious what these factories are making and who are buying the products!

I was hoping the shores of Recife would be much better. I was lucky to talk with Eldon Archibald who was the first person who greeted us on the boat inquiring if we had any waste, garbage or engine lubricants that we wanted to dispose of.  Eldon, although from Guyana works  for North Oil, a marine recycling  company in Recife. Eventually he was able to help the crew on Sea Dragon deliver diesel. We saw over 10 red jerry cans lined up on the deck of Sea Dragon as we rode past on the dive boat today.  As I recall when we left Dakar they bought 1000 litres so I can only guess there were many trips back and forth with those jerry cans! The crew, Imogen, Emily and Holly have been working ever since we left to prepare for the next trip.

The beach clean-up was a success but there was so much more garbage that we didn’t have time to pick up. We concentrated on the bigger items. There is still so much the Brazilians need to learn. One is to use garbage bins.

There were no factories or raw sewage that I saw, but the beaches were full of litter as you can see in the pictures. As in Senegal many people throw trash on the ground and in the water. The beach clean-up was organized with local Brazilians who study at the University.

The eXXpedition team and about 10 of the students met at the beach with our bags and gloves. We spent over an hour picking up garbage on the crowded beach. It was mostly plastic!

On the waters edge there was a Christmas assortment of colors of micro plastics. It is unfortunate that poorer countries culturally do not see disposing of garbage on the ground and in the sea a problem but the attitude is changing. Taking the video at the beach clean-up I saw children helping out putting garbage in the bags. We were lucky to have Rachel who is a member on the Amazon trip who speaks fluent Portugese to translate what the locals were saying. She also talked with a man who works for the city who drives the garbage truck and picks up the trash.

beach clean recife_003

Unfortunately I am not able to upload the video at this time or the interview with Mbaake Seck or Eldon Archibald since the internet here at the house is very poor.

Like Mbaake  in Dakar, the locals in Recife all point out that it will be the children who need to be educated about protecting where they live and who will break the cycle taking better care of their environment.

By Simone Machamer

 

Go top
%d bloggers like this: