The cleaning boats. / MIGUE FERNÁNDEZ

The ongoing battle to keep the Costa del Sol coastline clean

Every day during summer a fleet of small boats set out to collect discarded rubbish and waste from the sea during the busy peak season

ALBERTO FIZ Malaga

Every day a fleet of small boats set out to sea in an effort to keep the waters off the Costa del Sol's beaches free from rubbish and waste.

The company in charge of this service is Ecolmare, which won the public tender and has been cleaning the coastal waters for three years. There are four small, motorised boats based in Malaga which operate as far as Torremolinos to Rincón de la Victoria including a 'pelican' which has opening gates in the bow to collect rubbish from the surface of the sea. It can also collect liquids floating on the surface of the water.

In addition, the company has another 14 vessels that are responsible for cleaning the sea off the beaches of various municipalities in the province such as Torremolinos, Benalmádena, Fuengirola, Mijas, Marbella, Estepona, Manilva and Casares.

Every day, at ten o'clock in the morning, this little fleet of boats sets sail to collect as much of the rubbish as possible that is carelessly discarded. The contract of the 'quitanatas' boats is seasonal and commences on weekends from Easter, and daily from June 1 until September 30.

They have a dual function, according to Malaga city councillor Teresa Porras: "On the one hand is the actual cleaning of the beaches and on the other it is the awareness, since bathers see that the boats are there to collect what they have discarded."

Despite popular belief, the 'cream' that gives these boats their name is not a priority for the cleaning service. There are studies from the University of Malaga that show that these foamy substances are not toxic. The 'pelican' does have the capacity to collect and filter the foam, but the boats cannot, they are limited to dissolving it, thus avoiding those somewhat unpleasant sights that bother some bathers.