Ucéanos: 5 tons of waste have been removed from Chilean beaches thanks to this student initiative
Since 2018, the project has focused its activities on cleaning beaches and sustainable awareness. It has removed 5 tons of waste from Bucalemu, Quintero, Ritoque, and Pichilemu beaches. They have also educated those communities on sustainable development and the conservation of coastal areas for public use.
Sharing the dream to see beaches without waste and free from pollution is what brought together a group of students from the UC business administration program in 2018.
That is how Ucéanos (a wordplay mixing UC and océanos —oceans) was born. It is a volunteer program in which students from different undergraduate programs participate, collecting trash from beaches. It aims to promote sustainability as a way of thinking and propose concrete actions to contribute to the care of the environment in coastal areas.
This year, Ucéanos has carried out cleanups in beaches such as:
These interventions have removed about 5 tons of waste composed mainly of microplastics, fishing nets, and other trash. They also work with local communities to educate them on sustainability and biodiversity.
The project was born from a group of university classmates who sought to change by cleaning beaches. "As the initial group was small, we did not expect the environmental impact to be so significant. We focused our energies on generating awareness among all the volunteers. From there, we could influence different companies and communities to think sustainably," said María de la Luz Cilveti, a student at the Business Administration undergraduate program. She is one of the founders and one of the current leaders of the student initiative.
Currently, the group is supported by over 100 volunteers from Journalism, Social Work, Business Administration, and Civil Construction undergraduate programs. They continue to focus their activities on cleaning beaches and polluted areas, and raising sustainable awareness.
"We have managed to do beach cleanups and collecting these tons of garbage with a little more than 300 volunteers," —Maria de la Luz Cilveti, leader of the student initiative.
Ucéanos has a management team of 11 students, who have different roles through commissions.
"We have managed to do beach cleanups and collecting these tons of garbage with a little more than 300 volunteers," explained Maria de la Luz Cilveti.
But not everything is a waste. Volunteers also set aside recyclable garbage to be sent to clean points and processed.
To search for coastal sites, the Ucéanos logistics team conducts a pre-expedition, which helps determine whether the beach needs a thorough cleanup with the participation of all volunteers. The same team also contacts local municipalities to manage permits and coordinate the resources needed for each operation.
In these environmental care operations, Ucéanos also holds the help of the international ecological association Parley for the Oceans. They assist in technical and operational levels in:
- Waste removal
- Motivational talks for volunteers
"We also have worked with external companies, ventures, and organizations inside and outside UC Chile. They have aided us to form strong networks," said Eileen Saffery, general manager of the project and business administration student.
The outbreak of the pandemic and the lock-downs made fieldwork difficult. However, the project focused on different online calls to raise awareness about environmental care, sustainable development, and nature conservation.
These calls "have helped us to reach more people, especially through our Instagram, as we have more than 2,000 followers," explained Cilveti.
"The truth is, working during the pandemic was not easy, since our operations are face-to-face. That was the main way to deliver our message. However, during 2020 we reinvented ourselves and reached out to people through social media: informing and motivating more people to be aware of nature and its biodiversity."
Ucéanos: their impact
Field operations and environmental training have generated short- and long-term impacts. Volunteers and communities have both been educated about sustainable development and the conservation of Chilean beaches.
To measure results, the Ucéanos team has conducted surveys of its volunteers after every operation. They also meet with the group regularly to evaluate each week's activities.
The impact of Ucéanos "has been positive," said confidently Emilia Carril, a journalism student and Ucéanos' outreach manager.
"There are all the kilos of trash we have managed to remove from the beaches to help the ecosystem. That's a tangible result. We also helped change students' mentality, thanks to the awareness and our message of taking care of the environment. It will remain not only during the beach cleanup but for the rest of their lives," she added.
New step: Ucerros
The initiative wants to expand its action territory to the hills.
"The new Ucerros (a wordplay mixing UC and cerros —hills) project is currently being organized. We will climb the hills, picking up the trash along the way. Once up, we want to have a moment of education and reflection on a sustainable topic. We want to motivate critical thinking and encourage volunteers with upcoming operations," said Jacinta Fernández, community leader of the group and student of the Social Work program.
To participate as a volunteer, write an email to the project leaders:
- Maria de la Luz Cilveti: email@example.com
- Eileen Saffery: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow Ucéanos' Instagram for regular updates on online and on-site activities and information on future operations.