Cleaning up their act — Anti Litter Campaigns in Catalonia.

Summer in Barcelona …sunshine, blue skies and a beach at the end of the metro line. What could be better? I realize I am lucky to be living in this great European seaside city, but when I do find time to relax on the beach, I often wonder if anyone else has the distinct impression that they are lying in an ashtray? Most beaches around the world suffer from selfish people who leave their litter lying around, and although in Barcelona people are employed to clean and rake the sand several times a day, this is clearly not enough to keep the beach clean. I am sure it is especially difficult to win this endless battle on city beaches where such a high volume of tourists and locals like to relax on such easily accessible stretches of sand.

Common sense tells us that the way forward is educating and informing, that if you are able to access the public consciousness hopefully people will become more aware of their actions. While this seems like a sound brief for an ad man to follow, I am not sure that this battle against littering is currently being won. However it is interesting to see the variety of methods the local authorities are using to fight their ground here in Barcelona.There have been adverts included with the newspaper supplements which take the form of an educational biology classroom poster. It has images of different fish, identified by their name underneath, except that the fish in this case are actually litter made into fishlike forms. The title of the poster is ‘The most dangerous species of the Mediterranean’. Along with their names come their origen, behaviour and life span, for example:

Plastic bag origen: city streets, beaches and boats. Behaviour: strong likeness to jellyfish, can be ingested by other animals, intoxicating them. Lifespan: 35 to 60 years.

There have also been some particularly effective ad campaigns on TV and hanging in the streets. The poster in our street features a baby crawling on the sand with a cigarette butt in its mouth. This arresting image comes with the byline:

The sand on the beach doesn’t make things disappear. We’re not asking you for something you couldn’t do.

Taking a less dramatic, more humorous angle on the problem are the speaking beaches. As you walk along the beach every now and again you will come across a speech bubble popping out from the sand with a message from the beach:

There are bins near here. Use them.
Pleas from the beach can also be heard over the tanoy system at various intervals during the day.

Taking the idea of beach personification further is a group of actors employed by the local government who dress up in outlandish eye catching costumes and parade the beach as creatures from the sea screeching with pain when they find a plastic bag or bottle in the sand, they then read out ‘the beach manifesto’ which comprises of rules to keep the beach clean.

These methods are all very imaginative and quite entertaining, great work from ad men and graphic designers. But does this sort of awareness raising actually get results? Do people actually listen or are they just temporarily entertained, or indeed shocked, and then carry on just as before? From where I am lying, clearly people are still using the beach as an ashtray. Unfortuately, unlike the TV ad, the beach won’t actually swallow these people to teach them a lesson.
::Barcelona beach info
::download poster here

[Leonora & Petz]