THE DRAIN IN SPAIN
The Spanish greenhouse complex dubbed the ‘sea of plastic’ is so well-known there’s even a TV showed named after it. El Mar De Plástico follows a fictional murder investigation in which a girl’s blood has been drained and then fed into the sprinkler system.
Each year, 3.2 million tonnes of fruit and veg are grown in these greenhouses. Their vast white expanse, covering some 300km2, creates an albedo effect akin to a small ice sheet – the region reflects 9 per cent more sunlight than it did in the early 1980s. This may help to reduce local warming, but can’t offset the overall environmental impact of such a massive horticultural operation. Water is drained from below the already parched land to irrigate crops and there’s a waste problem that includes 480,000 tonnes of reject fruit and veg a year. More of this waste could be composted or mixed into animal feed, while recent research at the University of Almería recommended a green 'biorefinery' approach that would transform some of it into building materials, biodegradable plastics and specialist chemicals.