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marine litter  it is a visible problem for those who frequent beaches and coastal areas. The visual impact is the first one we come across. However, even on seemingly clean beaches,  we also found  garbage frequently.  If we look closely at the beach, we can find:   


- Small irregular garbage fragments  resulting from the slow degradation of plastic  by the action of the sand  (mechanical erosion), from the sun (thermal degradation; degradation by ultraviolet radiation) and from sea water (chemical degradation). For example, a plastic bottle gives rise to numerous fragments, which over time,  they become smaller and smaller.  

- Small flat plastic discs  (approximately 5mm in diameter), internationally known as  pellets  and which are the raw material used to produce all the plastics we know and use on a daily basis.  


All garbage items, from larger objects to smaller fragments, raw materials or resulting from waste degradation are responsible for causing several problems in ecosystems and biodiversity but also in people's lives and society.  

Impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity




Animals are attracted to marine litter because of their natural curiosity or while seeking food or shelter. Imprisonment may not necessarily lead to death, but  suffering, deformations or limitations for the rest of your life. One of the phenomena that leads to the imprisonment of many animals is the  "ghost fishing"  caused by accidentally or deliberately lost fishing nets ("ghost nets"). These nets, or other fishing gear, continue to catch fish while drifting or on the seabed. Their catches attract other food-seeking fish, mammals and seabirds that are usually trapped or entangled in them, causing a continual lethal cycle.  




Marine animals can ingest  garbage accidentally or because it looks like their fangs. For example, turtles eat plastic bags because they mistake them for jellyfish; birds feed or feed their young with plastic pellets, because they look like fish eggs, etc. Ingestion can lead to hunger or malnutrition if ingested junk items fill your stomach. Sharp objects, such as metal and broken glass, can injure your digestive tract and cause infections and pain. Ingested items can also block the airway and eventually cause death from suffocation. 

Ingesting garbage, especially plastic, can lead to other problems. It has been scientifically demonstrated that plastic works as a kind of sponge, as it has the ability to adsorb toxic chemical compounds present in seawater, such as
  POP . As a result, when animals ingest contaminated plastic, POPs will accumulate in their adipose tissues, which can affect the proper functioning of their organs, or accumulate in other animals when they serve as prey (bioaccumulation).  For humans at the top of the food chain, the consequences are still unknown.  


Exotic Species Transport


Some species are transported by garbage  and invade seas they normally would never reach. When these establish themselves in a new environment, they interact with native species and represent a threat to native and  balance of ecosystems. Invasion by alien species is one of the greatest threats to global biodiversity.  


Habitat damage


Debris at sea can damage benthic habitats, for example, through the abrasion of coral reefs by fishing gear or smothering communities.

Machinery used to remove litter from beaches can damage coastal habitats.  



Impacts on people and goods

In addition to being a major threat to marine life, marine litter also affects people, their property and their economic activities.  




Decrease in fish stocks due to the direct impact on marine fauna decrease the revenues of this sector. Additionally, drifting nets and ropes if they get tangled up in propellers and anchors can cause damage or irreparable damage to vessels.  





The beaches with garbage do not attract tourists. Fewer tourists translates into revenue streams for coastal communities. Companies associated with accommodation, catering and recreational activities are negatively affected by this problem.  


local authorities  


To avoid major damage to coastal activities, local authorities have to make a significant portion of their budget available each year for coastal activities.  cleaning beaches. These cleanings are quite expensive,  especially in remote areas with difficult access or lack of infrastructure (garbage bins, etc).




Broken glass or rusty metal on the sand, as well as medical waste (syringes, dressings, etc.) can injure people and be a source of transmission of infectious diseases. Possible contamination of fish and shellfish with toxic chemical compounds can pose another health risk.

Additionally, divers can be seriously injured, or even drowned, if they get caught in the trash.




Marine Waste in Portugal

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