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The beautiful European city with a 2,300-tonne problem – British tourists issued warning

A stunning seaside city where thousands of British tourists flock each year is experiencing a major waste problem – and has now turned to the public for help.

In recent years, Malaga, in Spain’s southern region of Andalusia, has been regularly recovering thousands of tonnes of solid waste from its wastewater.

Data provided by the water company of Malaga city, Emasa, revealed that the town hall had to remove 2,341 tonnes of solid waste from the city’s wastewater last year.

Most of the waste, Spanish news outlet SUR reported, consisted of wipes – from baby wipes to glass cleaners and make-up removers.

While many wipes are sold as biodegradable, some take centuries to decompose and, even if they break down after flushing, they can still bind together in the sewage system and cause not just serious environmental issues but also massive blockages, that need to be dealt with at major expenses by local authorities. 

Moreover, flushed waste risks reappearing on Malaga’s beautiful beaches, particularly when it rains.

Awareness campaigns have been launched over the years to urge locals and tourists alike not to flush wipes, no matter what their labels say.

The campaigns have had some impact. While in 2018 the amount of solid waste in wastewater had reached 3,056 tonnes, data show a regular decrease over the successive years.

The data related to last year represented an improvement when compared to 2022, when 2,368 tonnes of waste had been collected in the sewage system.

Of the waste recovered last year, 49.73 percent was extracted in the periodic cleaning of the municipal sewage network and 39.87 percent was found in the filtering systems of the Guadalhorce and Peñón del Cuervo wastewater treatment plants.

A further 10.40 percent came from the wastewater pumping stations operating in Malaga city. 

Emasa has installed more filters at pumping stations to try and remove as much waste as possible before it reaches the city’s two treatment plants.

But the most effective solution to the issue remains reminding people of the damage mindlessly flushing wipes can do to their surroundings.

Awareness campaigns have been carried out through schools and universities, neighbourhood associations and various groups, and sometimes even include visits to wastewater treatment plants to show people first-hand what the issue is. 


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