Plastic rubbish seen on the beach. | Marilles Foundation


Among the seaweed and the white foam, we see the first sign: a disposable mask, remnants of the Covid pandemic that paralysed the whole world. It is not alone. It joins an out-of-tune chorus of cigarette butts, fast food wrappers, and plastic bottles. As the ocean takes them all in, they become permanent residents of an already fragile ecosystem. Microplastics, invisible to the naked eye, infiltrate the food chain, from the plankton that mistakes them for food to the fish that we eat ourselves.

When we think of the waste that ends up in the sea, what we are considering is not just an accumulation of floating rubbish. The sea acts as an unforgiving mirror, reflecting our choices and forcing us to reconsider the consumption and production model we have chosen to perpetuate. The ocean has become an endless archive of our collective daily choices, a continuous record of our environmental negligence and unsustainable lifestyle. Every straw, every plastic bag, every six-pack ring represents a choice, a series of decisions that compound to form a problem on a global scale. So, the question is not just what kind of waste ends up in the sea, but what kind of people we have chosen to be.

At the ReZero Foundation, we think and work to build a zero-waste society, hence the link that unites us with the essential work of Marilles Foundation for marine preservation. Adopting a zero-waste lifestyle is a decision: the decision to consume consciously.

Conscientious consumption does not mean not buying, but rather buying wisely by asking critical questions: Who made this? Where does it come from? What materials were used? It means looking for local, fair trade, non-packaging, reusable, and repairable alternatives.

Photo: Xavier Mas

For the health of the sea, a society that knows how to consume consciously is essential. Half of the waste we find in the sea is disposable products, most often packaging, cups, or bottles. All of them have reusable alternatives, as well as an immense business potential to develop and grow local economic models that promote reuse.

A third of the microplastics in the sea come from textiles, where most fabrics are synthetic fibres. This growing fraction of waste generation is inceasing with our throwaway model of consumption. Tobacco cigarette butts are the most common waste on European beaches. Many of these products are also produced with chemical compounds that affect our health and that of our ecosystems.

We bear the toxic and economic burden of this waste. But the responsibility must be shared. It is the companies who decide on the design and durability of products. It is the administrations that set the standards and can promote more sustainable models.

Perhaps the most profound reflection is to recognise that to change what the ocean shows us, we must first change who we are. Adopting a lifestyle that not only minimises waste, but also values durability, reuse, and environmental awareness is not just an option; it’s both an opportunity and a necessity. Ultimately, what happens on land ends up in the sea. And in the sea, what goes around, comes around.