The only trace that every pilgrim should leave on the Camino is his footprint and his memory among the pilgrim friends that the Camino presents to you. While it is true that sometimes, on the Camino de Santiago, we find some garbage and waste, in general the Jacobean routes are quite clean, thanks to the pilgrims’ values of respect and care for the environment, as well as the initiative of the company Ecoembes, which with the invaluable collaboration of the pilgrims, make the Camino de Santiago shine.
What is Ecoembes?
The non-profit organization Ecoembes from Madrid has been helping companies to respond and comply adequately with the obligations arising from the Law 11/97 on packaging since 1996. In fact, it was the packaging manufacturers, packers and distributors themselves who created Ecoembes as a collective and efficient solution to comply with the law. Since 2015, this initiative is also a pilgrimage and can be found on the Camino de Santiago.
Ecoembes on the Camino de Santiago
Many of the products manufactured by the companies that make up Ecoembes can be found on the Camino de Santiago, as they are products that pilgrims also consume. Perhaps this is not the reason for the presence of Ecoembes on the road, perhaps a desire for social and environmental responsibility, and the Camino de Santiago is an ideal place to implement actions of environmental care.
Although on the pilgrimage routes we can find containers and points where we can deposit our waste, in some sections we lack them, and the initiative of Ecoembes, providing reusable bags to accumulate our garbage, covers this need. Surely you’ve seen on the counters of bars, restaurants, hostels and others some boxes with small packets of free yellow bags made of recycled PET; well, these bags are intended for pilgrims to pick up and take with them tied to the backpack in order to be able to deposit in them their waste, and even garbage that may be found on the road. Once you have found a container or an eco-shelter, you can empty the bag into it.
You can find out more on the Ecoembes website itself, and in more detail on the specific website they have in collaboration with the Xunta de Galicia, the “Camino del reciclaje”.
The 2021 season
Between June and September of this Holy Year 2021, at the height of the tourist and pilgrimage season, a total of 186 tons of garbage were collected on the various routes to Santiago de Compostela, thanks to the 142,000 bags used and the collaboration of 358 eco-groceries, according to Ecoembes.
In addition, the intention is not only to collect garbage, but even to differentiate it and separate plastic from paper. Thus, Ecoembes reports that were 52,381 kilograms of plastic, cans or bricks were counted in yellow containers, and in turn 133,155 kilograms of paper and cardboard.
As mentioned above, 358 hostels joined this year. As a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, there were fewer than there are, as many were closed, but the ratio of kilogram collected per shelter has increased by 0.4% compared to previous data. Each hostel has between 2 and 4 yellow and blue recycling points, where there is also a BIDI code where ecopilgrims can ask questions about recycling.
Of the 358 eco-shelters, 173 were in Galicia, 53 in Asturias, 78 in Castilla y León, 34 in Navarra and 20 in La Rioja, between public and private. In this way, this project covers the different stages of the French Way of St. James, the Northern Way of St. James, the Portuguese Way of St. James, the English Way of St. James and the Primitive Way of St. James.
“We want future generations can continue to enjoy a Camino de Santiago committed to recycling and free of litter,” says the head of the Recycling Road project in Ecoembes, Carolina Martin. “We are extremely satisfied with the results of this edition. They are a clear reflection of the commitment of the ecoperegrinos and ecoalbergues with the care of the environment despite the hard current context caused by the crisis of the Covid-19″, he adds.
Ecocompostela, do not miss it
A very pilgrim incentive that tries to promote the use of the bags and that the initiative walks as one more pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela is the possibility of getting a compostela ecoperegrina, or an ecocompostela, as we like to call it. There is a kind of ecocredential that pilgrims can stamp in establishments attached to the initiative, so that they can get this certificate that guarantees a commitment to nature, the environment and the values of the pilgrim and the Camino de Santiago.
“Let the Camino leave its mark on you, not you on it”.
Under this motto we walk and will continue to walk towards Santiago de Compostela. We, who have several of these bags, are pilgrims sweepers on the Camino de Santiago, and with great pride. We invite you, pilgrim or future pilgrim, to follow our game, giving a very good example to others, giving cleanliness and wellbeing in our walk.
Pilgrims, let us, together with Ecoembes, make this Way of the Stars, the Way of St. James, shine, always free of litter.