THE Playa de Palma, which runs from Can Pastilla to Arenal and covers an area of approximately 168'000 square metres, generates an average of 15 tonnes of rubbish each day during the high tourist season and this month there have been complaints about its cleanliness. A spokesman from the Water and Rubbish Disposal company, EMAYA, explained that concessions to run the beaches are granted to private companies which take on responsibility for cleaning, maintenance and operation. According to EMAYA, if the companies fail to carry out any part of their agreement with the City Council, the latter are entitled to issue a warning, and, in very serious infringements, to rescind the contract and recuperate monies paid for the work. The specifications of the conditions of contract are “periodically” reviewed. The private companies are under obligation to collect rubbish that is either left or washed up on the beach. They are not expected, however, to fish items out of the water, work that is undertaken by the debris collection vessels belonging to EMAYA. In the case of the Playa de Palma, “Mar de Mallorca” has had the concession since 1968. According to its personnel director, Constantino Vázquez, from that time onwards their work has been gathering momentum each year “due to the increased numbers of tourists, especially this high season with the heat wave”. The 62 employees work in shifts from midnight to 7pm in order to keep free from rubbish an area that, from May to October, is visited daily by some 18'000 people. The start of clean-up operations sees tractors and shovels in action which turn over the sand to oxygenate it “in order to avoid colonies of bacteria forming and to level off sand piles that might have accumulated”. Next on the scene are the operators themselves, cleaning up rubbish that has been left behind on the beach by the day's visitors, or that has been washed up due to sea currents. Flotsam that is washed up onto the beach has a variety of sources, and is not simply a question of waste being thrown out of ships. In some cases, floating debris “is dragged down by the currents of the Gulf of León and from as far away as Gibraltar, aided and abetted by the Embat wind which blows along the coast of Palma”. The beach cleaners have reported collecting plastic bags that have come from as far away as Tarragona or Morocco although the commonest waste consists of empty packaging, plastic or glass bottles, advertising leaflets, “an occasional condom”, and weeds and branches due to “bad weather or when debris is swept down by water pouring through the torrents (water courses),” mentioned Vázquez in particular. All the rubbish collected after each day's work is eventually deposited in different containers and taken to the rubbish dump at Son Reus.
The EMAYA spokesman commented that due to the heat wave that the island has been suffering this summer, the beaches “have been packed from May or June onwards, meaning more rubbish to be collected than last year when there was such bad weather”. Nevertheless, he was optimistic about people who use the beach showing signs of improved respect. “There seems to be more awareness of the responsibility not to pollute the surroundings”.

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