When coming out of confinement, the first instinct of Anne Settimelli, founder and director of the Explore & Preserve association, was to take a walk on the beaches bordering the town of Hyères, in the Var, where she lives. A sad ride for this lover of the coast and marine fauna. “I am of a positive temperament but, there, seeing the disaster on the beaches, I was frankly not in morale. We never suspected that we would find gloves and masks so quickly in the water disposable. ”
On the sand or at the bottom of the sea, the observation is edifying as shown by these images recently filmed in the bay of Cannes by a diver showing dozens of gloves and masks at the bottom of the Mediterranean. “The coronavirus epidemic has added pollution to that which already exists. There are still as many bottles, cigarette ends, cotton swabs, tires, to which is added all the plastic production generated by the health crisis: masks and disposable gloves in mind, “regrets Anne.
“Instead of being indignant in my corner, I decided to act at the local level”
Hyères has 57,000 inhabitants, but the town has 40 km of coastline with the peninsula of Giens and the islands of Porquerolles, Levant and Port-Cros. “Our coastline is as beautiful as it is fragile. Offshore, you can see dolphins and whales, she marvels. One day, I found a turtle and a dolphin dead on the beach, suffocated by debris plastic. Instead of being outraged in my corner, I decided to act locally. ” In October 2019, Anne and her friends launched the Explore & Preserve association. Like its 170 volunteers, 70% of whom are women, the very young association is ultra-dynamic. “Our concrete and local actions have a lot of impact on the local population.” In a few months, Explore & Preserve carried out around thirty waste collections and launched awareness-raising operations in schools.
While the nautical bases reopen in June, the association has finalized its collaboration with the Port-Cros national park to produce a series of wooden panels to make users aware of marine pollution. “Anything that is thrown directly ashore, ends up in our waterways and ends up at sea, insists Anne. The appearance of disposable surgical masks is misleading, adds the volunteer. The masks look like paper, and some think that ‘they are biodegradable, but they are not. They are made from plastic fibers. ” Made from polypropylene, a very dense thermoplastic material, the masks are neither biodegradable nor recyclable. “They take about 500 years to degrade, fulminates Anne Settimelli. This plastic is very friable, it shatters into very small pieces which are then ingested by the fauna and also suffocate the seabed.” Masks can also clog wastewater pipes and disrupt sanitation systems, warns the Inf Center.