The weird nasty pollution covering the once spectacular shorelines of Madeira Portugal, has been around for a few years, at least since 2016 when a team from the Marine and environmental Sciences Centre (MARE) in Portugal began monitoring the plastic buildup.

The crust, according to Marine ecologist Ignacio Gestoso, “likely originated by the crash of large pieces of plastic against the rocky shore, resulting in plastic crusting the rock in a similar way algae or lichens do.”  Regardless of how it got there, it is pretty easy to recognize the source of this newest pollution to slam nature; humans.    

Plasticrust, as named by the team, looks globby like used gum stuck to various spots on the volcanic rocks.  It is still early to knowhow plasticrust is affecting the environment as it embeds itself more and more around us.  The team is able to state that chemical analysis has revealed the crust is primarily polyethylene.  That’s right, all those plastic bags and food packaging that have become so convenient to so many, is attaching itself to our shores. 

Nearly ten percent of the rocks’ surfaces are now covered with the stuff.  Algae eating winkle sea snails, aka Littorina Littorea, were comfortable on the plasticrust.  That is an indicator that the snails may be ingesting the plastic along with the algae – just a reminder of how pervasive the spread is likely to be.

The thing is, even without scientific evidence of how damaging this can be to the environment, we know it isn’t ok.  And we know each of us can collectively reduce plastic pollution by using and sharing the three R’s listed in order of effect on our planet:

Reduce:  Use less products that require plastic wrapping, or just use less products. Bringing your own bags in grocery AND other stores is a way to reduce plastic. Making meals at home avoids buying takeout containers that end up in our ecosystem.

Reuse: Reusing items- whether glass, plastic, paper or metal uses less energy and work than recycling, and is better for the planet. Where ever you can do so, reuse. Fill your own water bottle when you go out, so you are not using and tossing a plastic bottle each time.  

Recycle: If you cant avoid buying with plastic, and have used and reused it as much as possible, recycle it. Many municipalities offer recyclable pick up. Check with your own area to learn what can be included and how clean it must be to avoid your recyclables ending up in landfills.

Image by Анастасия Гепп from Pixabay

Experts think there will be a plastic marker in the Earth’s sedimentary record or layer.  I don’t’ know about you, but that does not make me proud.  As Gestoso reminds us “Unfortunately, the magnitude of the problem is so huge that few places are free of plastic pollution.”  What remains to be seen is what we will choose to do about it.