Littering : What is it?

This term is used for waste generated by human beings and which ends up contaminating nature. We'll tell you what it is and how to fight it


29 April 2020


Until 2018, when 'basuraleza' was entered into the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language (RAE), the term 'littering' was used to describe waste generated by humans and abandoned in natural environments, generally being harmful or polluting for the flora and fauna in the ecosystem.

The word 'basuraleza', in addition to castilianizing the concept, helps improve understanding and raise awareness about the significance of this global phenomenon that is affecting so many species. Its impact has been most evident in the marine environment, but its effects have also begun to be studied in terrestrial and river environments, highlighting the fact that this is an environmental problem as silent as it is worrying.

The presence of plastic materials in nature has been well documented. But science also points to the desirability of analysing the impact of microplastics and nanoplastics produced by the clothing or cosmetics industry, as well as metal waste and other debris, such as cigarette butts.

This is an environmental problem as silent as it is worrying.

How to prevent littering?

All actors need to work in an aligned manner, at local, national and international levels, to eradicate a growing problem:

• Administrations, improving the management of waste and cooperating to help those regions and countries that don't have the resources to handle them.

• Companies, reducing and properly managing their waste.

• Consumers, ensuring proper management of their waste.

Every person counts. Every action counts. One of the main challenges in tackling this problem is to do so on a global scale and with international cooperation.

Littering doesn't mean simply dumping or creating an island of plastic. It's every cigarette butt, sandwich foil or  wrapper that's left abandoned. This can have direct effects, for example on habitat degradation and destruction. It can also have indirect effects, since the scattered presence of litter in almost any environment can become a source of diffuse pollution, which is often invisible but has unpredictable consequences.