Yes, I know we are all aware that we should be cutting down on our plastics, and I hear a sigh of ‘Oh not another piece about saving the planet’, and quite rightly, we are aware that some inroads are being made to use less, but a reminder doesn’t hurt.

Plastic pollution is one of the most visible examples of the damage we’re causing to our planet. From our local beaches to the remote Arctic, it is choking our oceans and killing wildlife. One in two marine turtles has eaten plastic, and 90% of seabirds have plastic in their stomachs.

Do you know what’s in your fish?

What is also worrying is that 60% of fish examined globally contained microplastics, and it also found that carnivorous fish (including your coveted wild salmon) tend to contain more microplastics than omnivores. Aside from some farmed fish, most seafood we consume is still caught in the wild, yet while it might seem that there is something more ‘correct’ about consuming wild food as opposed to farmed food, this wild food that we eat soaks in a sea contaminated by plastic — and a lot of that pollution may be making its way into our own bodies via seafood.

Indeed, when it comes to plastics, consumers of seafood may be chowing down on the equivalent of soda bottles and credit cards. Yet you will never hear a literal ‘crunch,’ and the reason for this is simple, unsettling, and pretty disgusting: The plastic in your seafood is ‘microplastic’, a term for any plastic particle that is less than 5mm in length.

And, according to the UN, there are apparently over 50 trillion microplastics in the ocean.

And it’s getting worse. Without a global response, they say there could be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050. We need urgent action at the top to stop the catastrophic decline of nature – including an immediate agreement that will stop the leakage of plastics into the oceans.

Credits: Unsplash; Author: @tim-mossholder;

We are all responsible

Every single country is part of this plastics crisis. And every single one of us must be part of the solution: we need a united global response, and by coming together to tackle plastic pollution, we can show that powerful, collective action to restore nature is possible.

Say no to plastic cutlery and straws

In Portugal in November 2021, a government decree-law came into force, prohibiting the sale of single-use plastic products, such as cotton swabs and utensils for food or decoration, outlawing disposable plastic packaging of fruit, vegetables, and bread. The provision of ultralight plastic bags for primary packaging or transport of bread, fruit and vegetables was prohibited in Portugal from June, but operational difficulties have led distribution companies to ask for the elimination of this ban, to safeguard the packaging of products at high risk of deterioration or that are very perishable, and controlled atmosphere products, such as fruits and vegetables cut in store. But we are seeing progress being made, and less and less plastic is being seen, with more use of biodegradable packaging.

Credits: Unsplash; Author: @jas-min;

New Meaning to BYOB (Bring your own bottle)

This used to be a mantra for parties a long time ago, only it referred to bringing your own bottle (of alcohol!). Plastic bottles are one of the most common sources of plastic pollution and are frequently found on beach cleans globally. The lids commonly end up in seabirds’ stomachs. Only 2% of bottles are from recycled material, which means these common items are produced from virgin plastic, used once, and thrown away, at a cost to our planet.

So, we aren’t totally plastic-free yet. Many of us are forced to buy water in big bottles because their water isn’t safe, but we could decant that into our own bottles for ‘water-on-the-go’ couldn’t we? It would be a modest start.


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan