Tag Archive for: waste

That the sea unites, no longer separates’ – Fernando Pessoa

Nearly 80% of the world’s wastewater is discharged into the sea without treatment, and plastic makes up 85% of marine litter. Today 11 to 12 million tons of plastic waste enter the oceans every year. If nothing is done this number will double in 2030.

According to the scientific journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), more than 8 million tons of plastic are associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, of which a large amount ended up in the sea.

Between 1946 and 1993, the oceans were abused as a nuclear waste dump. The US government conceded to the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) that up until 1970, the country had disposed of 90,000 barrels at different locations in the Pacific and North Atlantic. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the USSR admitted to IAEA that in Soviet times, around 1,9000,000 cubic meters of nuclear waste disappeared in the Arctic Sea and almost 150,000 cubic meters went into the Pacific Ocean and Baltic Sea.

Nobody was able to provide exact numbers for the amount of radioactive waste that was dumped. Protests by Greenpeace finally brought about change and in 1994 all countries that had previously used the oceans as a nuclear dump signed a moratorium that still stands today.

However, the metal barrels were not designed to ensure a permanent containment of radioactivity at depths of several thousand meters and there is proof of burst barrels and contamination of seawater.

Speaking at the opening of the 2nd UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon – hosted by Portugal and Kenya and attended by more than 7000 people from 142 countries – secretary general António Guterres said that ‘we cannot have a healthy planet without a healthy ocean’ and that the ‘egoism of nations is hampering efforts to agree on a long-awaited treaty to protect the world’s oceans’. Of the 64% of the high seas that lie beyond territorial limits, only 1,2% are currently protected.

Portuguese PM António Costa committed to classifying 30% of the country’s marine areas by 2030 and to recognize the oceans as a source of decarbonization and energy autonomy. In this regard, he wants to reach a 10-gigawatt capacity for renewable ocean energies by 2030.
‘I hope – he said – this Lisbon Conference will be a milestone in humanity’s reunion with the oceans’.

One of the most salutary interventions, however, came from a Brazilian biologist, who stressed ‘the world’s seas are sick because society is sick’.

Enjoy the week            Aproveite a semana                        (pic Público/Sapo)

Portugal is importing nearly 75% of its food and the Mediterranean country with the heaviest per capita food footprint, meaning that if everyone in the world consumes resources like the Portuguese, 2.5 planets earth are needed.

The biggest culprit is the country’s exceptional appetite for fish. Portugal is – after Japan and Iceland – the third biggest consumer of fish in the world engulfing every year around 62 kg per person, most of it –especially tuna, swordfish, and cod –imported.

But dependence doesn’t stop there. The country also relies heavily on the biocapacity of foreign nations – like Spain, France, Brazil, and China – for cereals, honey, jams, chocolate, and fats. Any short-term improvement isn’t expected, due to the fragile structure of public policies to reverse this trend.  

The Associação Natureza Portugal (ANP) – partner of the World Wildlife Fund – also recalls, that the ecological footprint has increased much more than the global average of 1,6 planets a year.

‘This ecological footprint in our country has mainly increased in the last three years. Portugal now appears in 46th place worldwide, whereas in 2018 it ranked 66th. This is due to the massive growth in tourism after the economic crisis and before the arrival of the coronavirus’, explains Catarina Grilo, conservation director of the ANP.

Besides an excessive consumption pattern, about one million tons of food is thrown away every year. Especially fruits and vegetables are wasted when they lose their expiration date or appearance, although often still suitable for consumption. In the whole EU, it is estimated that annually nearly 90 million tons are wasted.

‘Some supermarkets and department stores have strategies to combat food waste at the same time helping those in need. With the current pandemic, food aid requests increased more than 60%’, explains Filomena Pinto da Costa, coordinator of the youth support organization Casa Pia.

In a country that presided over the EU in the first half of 2021, Portugal had an important role in setting goals to reduce the ecological footprint at the European level. The Minister for the Environment and Climate Action, João Pedro Matos Fernandes, recently declared that 1.2 billion euros of funds are reserved to restore habitats and ecosystems between 2021 and 2027.

Stay Healthy      Fique Saudável                             (pic Público/Sapo)

“The planet is witnessing the appearance of new creatures, ones that have already conquered all continents. At first glance, they seem very delicate and frail but this is an illusion – they are long-lived, almost indestructible: their fleeting bodies won’t decompose for some three hundred more years.
These plastic bags are empty on the inside, and this historic foregoing of all contents unexpectedly affords them great evolutionary benefits”
( Olga Tokarczuk in Flights – Man Booker International 2018)

Plastic has proven to be indispensable in our global economy; most is used as packing material. Despite the fact that over 13 million tons of plastic are annually dumped into our oceans – every minute a truckload – the global production of plastic is still on the increase.

In Europe circa 30% of plastic is recycled.
If it is up to the Portuguese Parliament plastic bags – as well as plastic packing material for fruit, vegetables and bread – will be forbidden from June 2020.

Every Portuguese citizen produces about 480 kg of garbage per year (~ 1,3 kg per day), just as much as the average European. However, the separate collection of paper, glass and plastic in Portugal is still very limited and only 10-15% recycled.

Since the tourist boom some seven years ago, urban waste production in the capital has nearly doubled. Especially downtown Cais do Sodré, Misericórdia and Bairro Alto, where most tourists stay and the nightlife takes place – garbage accumulates. It leaves no doubt that – besides separation of waste – the frequency of collection services has to be intensified.

Another major polluter is the textile industry, the second largest after the oil industry. Although one can nowadays buy a T-shirt and a pair of jeans for almost no money, few people realize the enormous footprint – of nearly 15.000 litres of water – it takes to produce them. The manufactory of clothing has doubled in the last 15 years, whereas its lifespan was halved. Fast fashion rules!

Each year the Portuguese throw away 200,000 tons of textile (~20 kg per person). Although in some places – e.g. Braga –selective collection of textile takes place, the majority of unwanted clothes end up in the incinerator or on the garbage dump.

Bom fim de semana              Enjoy the weekend            
(pics Sapo/DN/Público)


Niemand minder dan de 82-jarige Sophia Loren doopte begin deze maand in Le Havre het – volgens de eigenaar – 8e wereldwonder.

De Meraviglia (‘Wonder’) is 315 meter lang,  65 meter hoog en kan bijna 6000 passagiersvervoeren. Het is daarmee het grootste in Europa gebouwde cruiseschip ter wereld.

Verleden week meerde het – op zijn eerste reis – aan in Lissabon.

Goed voor de economie

Volgens Ana Paula Vitorino, minister van Zee en Visserij, zullen dit jaar ruim 300 cruiseschepen en 500.000 passagiers de – binnenkort geheel gerenoveerde – terminal van Santa Apolónia aandoen. ‘We zien de laatste jaren een constante groei van het aantal cruiseschepen en de komende 10 jaar verwacht ik een verdubbeling van het aantal passagiers in Lissabon, aldus de minister. ‘Dat is goed voor de stad en goed voor de economie.’

Slecht voor het klimaat

Klimaatactivisten waarschuwen echter voor de enorme vervuiling, die deze megaschepen veroorzaken. ‘Bij het melden van emissies wordt de uitstoot van schepen – die dicht langs de kust varen – nooit meegerekend’, aldus Francisco Ferreira, directeur van milieuorganisatie ZERO. ‘Als de uitstoot van zwaveldioxide van deze boten zou worden meegerekend, zou dat de officieel opgegeven uitstoot bijna verdubbelen.’ ‘Met een wind, die in Portugal meestal uit het westen waait, breidt de luchtvervuiling zich over de hele kuststreek uit.


Zeeschepen gebruiken stookolie, de goedkoopste en smerigste diesel die er is. Dat leidt tot hoge emissie van CO2, zwaveldioxide en stikstofmonoxide. Volgens de Britse krant the Guardian en de Duitse milieuorganisatie NABU stoot een middelgroot cruiseschip net zoveel broeikasgassen uit als 5 miljoen middenklassenauto’s, die dezelfde afstand afleggen.

Maar ook voor anker in de haven – waarbij de motoren stationair blijven draaien voor de elektriciteitsvoorziening – gaat de vervuiling door en wordt per uur ruim 6 ton CO2 de lucht ingejaagd. Dat is evenveel als een Hummer produceert in een heel jaar.


Een cruiseschip met 3000 opvarenden loost per dag meer dan 100.000 liter rioolwater en produceert 7 ton afval, meldt het Amerikaanse milieuagentschap EPA. Nieuwere schepen hebben tegenwoordig waterzuiveringsinstallaties en verbrandingsinstallaties voor afval.
Maar bij het merendeel is dat nog niet het geval.

Geniet van het weekend             Tenha um excelente fim de semana