Libera coins Spanish word “basuraleza” to identify problem of littering in natural environments

On March 3, World Wildlife Day, it is more than probable that a sea turtle, an endangered species, will be killed as a result of becoming entangled in a ring-pull can opener. It might also be the case that the natural habitat of a bird as common as the red-legged partridge (a species in decline despite being very common) will be degraded by waste and rubble. Or that the fragile equilibrium of a wetland is disturbed due to the quantity of cigarette ends to be found on its bottom. Analyses carried out to date suggest that between 800 and 1,400 species are affected by littering (“basuraleza”) in oceans and aquatic environments alone. And at least 30 of these have been identified in Spain.

The international scientific community has alerted us to the danger of the potential impacts of littering in natural environments. However, in the midst of this great call for action, there is an obstacle in the Spanish-speaking world: the term “littering”. It does not feature in the Dictionary of the Spanish Language published by the Real Academia Española (responsible for overseeing the Spanish language) and the different translations proposed by different institutions do not always capture the true meaning of the phenomenon. Nor do these translations satisfactorily contribute to overcoming the challenge of informing the public of the enormity of the problem and how they can form part of the solution.  Even in English, the word “littering” can cause confusion because it is also used in the context of urban environments and organic waste.

Due to the foregoing, and having consulted biodiversity experts and researchers, LIBERA, a project undertaken by SEO/BirdLife in cooperation with Ecoembes to free nature from waste, has coined and proposed an alternative word, which, at least in Spanish, should help to create awareness of and prevent littering. The word is “basuraleza” a hybrid word that combines “basura” (waste) and “naturaleza” (nature).

The objective of LIBERA is to eradicate littering (“basuraleza”) and prevent it from adversely impacting and undermining the natural capital of the planet, which is so essential to human life. And the project seeks to achieve this through its fundamental pillars: knowledge, prevention and participation. Through its citizen science initiatives, and initiatives for the conservation and recovery of natural spaces, LIBERA seeks to achieve enhanced environmental awareness and education, which will ultimately help us to progress towards a circular economy.