Plastic pollution of the sea is something we can experience on hand here in the Azores. Unfortunately, on our shores we get from everything that is thrown or washed into the Atlantic Ocean, be it locally or somewhere a couple of thousand kilometres away. Luckily not only since the “Plastic Free July” movement there are numerous local initiatives to raise awareness of the problem, civil organisations as well as the government are acting. Like most of the environmental issues, best would be if there were global solutions, but knowing that the mills of God grind slowly, it does not harm to start now and here. The winter storms leave heaps of trash on our shores, one of the most beautiful beaches, Praia de Porto Pim in Horta is, due to its shape and location a huge funnel and visualizes the problem. Each spring it must be cleaned to re-establish its beauty. Meanwhile here on Faial there is a small movement organizing clean ups in most of the villages. Besides maintaining our beaches there are other side benefits, it raises awareness of the problem among the local communities, also here still a lot of education needs to be done to reverse the culture of thoughtless throwing away. But also, the beach clean ups are a good community building events bringing together all kind of people.Last weekend in our beautiful little port and beach of Feteira, equipped with big bags and gloves, a group of probably 30 people gathered to tackle the task. Honestly speaking, at first it was a little disappointing, I was expected collecting PET bottles, plastic bags and other big junks of garbage – those things you can see on dramatic TV reports. But reality is different, probably even more worrying, we mainly picked up small bits and pieces of plastic. The force of the ocean seems to have shredded everything to handy little pieces a couple of centimetres in size, “perfect” for getting swallowed by fish and getting into the food chain. But we also fished out of the sea a floating safety helmet made in the USA, probably from a bypassing freighter, but probably it made an almost 4000 km voyage from the East Coast. After having collected more than 150 kg of trash the pleasant side of community building started and immediately undermined my low carb diet, I could not resist to devour a more than reasonable helping of sweet rice – arroz doce prepared besides other snacks by the volunteers from SOS Feteira and No more plastics for the Azores. Hopefully my earlier garbage collection efforts were big enough to compensate for this sweetness.
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