Thursday, December 20, 2018

Azores initiative targets ocean waste

An organisation in Portugal’s Azores is pressing ahead with a joint innovative project aimed at substantially tackling the problem of plastic waste in the archipelago.
A pilot scheme by the Brussels-based NGO ‘Waste Free Oceans’ (WFO), which started in mid-October on São Miguel, the biggest of the Azores islands, is to continue into 2019 and could lead to a much wider, open-ended programme.
The initial project is looking into efficient ways of collecting, recycling and reusing recycled plastics.
Supported by the Azorean Government, ASEMA (Associação Sete Mares dos Açores), IMAR (Instituto do Mar, Universidade dos Açores), OMA (Observatório do Mar dos Açores) and the Thomsea company, the broad objective is to significantly contribute to the prevention and clearance of plastics pollution in the Atlantic Ocean.
The project is being conducted by volunteers in collaboration with the Swiss watch firm Baume, which is planning to use recycled plastic in the creation of a sustainable watch.
On the basis of the findings of the pilot phase, the joint partners intend to apply for longer-term funding to set up a formal ‘Fishing for Litter’ scheme.
The WFO project is using fishing trawlers and new Thomsea technology nets to collect all sorts of floating marine debris.
The project is also reducing shoreline waste by organising beach clean-ups and awareness-raising activities with the help of local organisations.
The WFO is using this first phase to acquire a better understanding of the waste issues on and off the coasts of the archipelago, which lies some 1,500 kilometres (900 miles) west of mainland Portugal.
The group has collected information from various stakeholders about the overall waste in the whole of the Atlantic.
It’s trying to raise awareness both among policy-makers and the public at large by collecting information that documents the impact of marine debris and, at the same time, to build the capacity of the project partners and to support the mobilisation of resources for a follow-up programme that could cover the whole Azores area.
Some of the statistics on global plastic waste have been well publicised, but are none-the-less still shocking:

- Ten million tonnes of plastic end up in the sea every year
- The amount is so great annually that it could circle the globe four times
- One million plastic bottles are sold every minute
- More than 80% of marine litter consists of plastic.

By 2050, there could be more plastic than fish in our oceans, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Bad as the problem is in the Atlantic, that’s not the worst affected area. The Mediterranean is massively polluted, and the highest levels of microplastics have been found in the South China Sea.
The European Commission has proposed new rules that target the ten single-use plastic products most often found on Europe's beaches and seas.
These products are the biggest part of the problem. Together they constitute 70% of all marine litter items found on our beaches.
While plastics are a convenient, adaptable, useful and economically valuable material, when not collected they accumulate in our oceans and on our beaches.
Plastic residues have now been found not only in many marine species but also in the human food chain.
The economic impact of plastic litter encompasses the lost economic value in the material as well as the costs of cleaning up and losses for tourism, fisheries and shipping.
The European Commission has proposed a comprehensive set of measures to address this problem. The Single-Use Plastics Directive is an integral part of the wider approach announced this year in the EU’s Plastics Strategy.
It builds on the successful reduction in the use of single-use plastic carrier bags brought about by EU legislation in 2014, and on the newly revised EU waste legislation, which includes targets for the recycling of plastics.
Between now and 2020, an additional €100 million will be devoted to financing EU priority actions, including the development of smarter and more recyclable plastics materials, more efficient recycling processes and the removal of hazardous substances and contaminants from recycled plastics.
The Single-Use Plastics legislation currently being negotiated will be voted by the EU Parliament and is expected to become an EU Directive by May 2019.
Once voted upon, there will be a statutory period of 24 months when Portugal, like all other EU countries, will have to put the Directive into national legislation.
How Portugal and each of the member states meet the new EU rules will be up to themselves.
For sure the new rules will reduce single-use plastics on our supermarket shelves through a range of measures. Some of these items will be banned and substituted with cleaner alternatives so people can still use their favourite products.
Member states will have to implement measures to reduce the use of plastic food containers and drinks cups.
According to an EU Commission statement, the new legislation should offer the clarity and certainty needed for investment and innovation in the Single Market. And it will eliminate uncertainty for business in the face of national measures which some member states have already taken to ban certain single-use plastic items.
Producers will be obliged to help cover the costs of waste management and clean-up, as well as awareness-raising measures for food containers, packets and wrappers such as for crisps and sweets.  
The industry will also be given incentives to develop less polluting alternatives for these products.
Implementation of the EU proposals will aim to reduce littering by more than half for the ten single-use plastic items, avoiding environmental damage which would otherwise cost €22 billion by 2030.
It is also expected to avoid the emission of
3.4 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030.
Massive though the plastics problem is, positive progress is predicted in the Azores, the Portuguese mainland and globally next year, but, like global warming, it’s a problem of such great complexity that it’s going to take many years to master.

San Miguel Island in the Azores

Monday, July 16, 2018

The perils of microplastic

   While the is no doubt about the vast scale of the plastic pollution problem, it’s far from clear how places like the Algarve are going to cope with the crisis.
Marine plastic pollution, particularly microplastic material, is a serious but as yet not fully understood threat to nature and to human health. If it worsens, it will increasingly threaten the economic well-being of communities across the world such as ours that depend on tourism and fisheries.
The global scale of the problem has become obvious, but locally and regionally many people may still not be fully aware that our reputation for beautiful beaches and excellent seafood is at stake.
The lack of awareness may be due in part to the fact that much marine plastic pollution cannot be seen, as it exists in micro form.
The neighbouring Mediterranean, with its renowned holiday resorts, is one of the most polluted seas in the world.
A new report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says plastic currently represents 95 per cent of the waste floating in the Mediterranean.
The record levels of pollution from microplastics are threatening marine species and human health, according to the WWF.
It says the concentration of microplastics is four times higher in the Mediterranean than the highest concentration in the Pacific Ocean.
Much of the plastic in the Mediterranean remains trapped there forever, though plenty must seep through the Straits of Gibraltar and along the southern coast of Portugal to add to the Pollution along the Atlantic shores.
Much of the plastic pollution in the sea and on the beaches of the Mediterranean starts out as waste material dumped in landfill sites in Turkey, Spain, Italy, France and North Africa.
The tourism and fisheries economic sectors are increasingly being affected, while themselves contributing to the pollution.
European fisheries are facing about €62 million of damage caused by huge reductions in fish catches and damage to boats.
More than eight billion metric tons of plastic have been produced since plastic was introduced in the 1950s. The amount of plastic produced in a year is roughly the same as the entire weight of humanity. Almost every piece of plastic ever made still exists in some shape or form.
Only a small percentage of plastic waste is recycled. It’s either dumped in landfills, incinerated or simply not collected. Since most plastic doesn’t biodegrade in any meaningful sense, all that plastic waste could exist for hundreds of years.
Wherever you look, the statistics on the source of plastic pollution are horrific.
One million plastic bottles are bought every minute around the world — and that number is expected to top half a trillion by 2021. Less than half of those bottles end up getting recycled.
Nearly 2 million single-use plastic bags are distributed worldwide every minute.
500 million plastic straws are used every day in America alone. That’s enough to circle the Earth three times.
About 580 billion cigarette butts are discarded annually in the European Union. Each butt takes about 10 years to disintegrate.
The WWF argues for stringent action, including the introduction of an international treaty with binding reduction measures and agreements about trade in plastic waste and criteria for recycling.
The national measures should include a 100 per cent recycling target, plus a ban on plastic bags and single-use plastics.
Legislation should also be passed to ban microplastics in personal care products.
The problem all along the European shores has already been compounded over many years. At long last, the European Commission has introduced the New Waste Package, which came into law on 4 July 2018 for all 28 EU member countries.
This contains substantially increased targets for collection and recycling of plastics which currently are polluting the world’s oceans.
On 28 May 2018, the EU Council and Parliament introduced the SUP (Single-Use Plastics) document, which proposes that each member state conduct awareness-raising educational campaigns about the disposal of all waste products such as plastic cups, straws and picnic utensils.
In September, the debate will begin and due to public pressure on plastic litter the EU proposal is expected to become legislation during the first half of 2019.
In other words, a comprehensive EU effort is under way, although the exact timing is still unknown.
Most experts reckon that overcoming the global plastics crisis will need an international commitment on the scale of the Paris agreement on climate change.
Meanwhile, the best we can each do as individuals is to cut down on our own use of plastic and help clean up the waste of others.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The secret of staying young in spirit 

Dorothy Boilter’s  100th birthday

     “She goes with the flow and doesn’t let much bother her,” says her eldest daughter, B.J. Boulter.
     That may be the secret of Dorothy Boulter’s popularity, happiness and longevity.
     Many family members and friends gather in the Algarve village of Estombar to celebrate Dorothy’s 100th birthday on 9th May.
     Twenty-nine members of her family came from as afield as the United Kingdom, Finland, Greece and the Netherlands to enjoy this very special, fun-filled occasion.
     Dorothy, whose father was English and mother Italian, was born on the island of Malta during the First World War.
    She served with the British Royal Navy during the Second World War. 
    She and her husband, Royston, together with their seven children, spent 16 years in Africa before coming to the Algarve in 1962...
    They bought the renowned Solar Penguin guest house on the seafront at Praia da Rocha. Dorothy ran it for 45 years.
      Widowed in 1981, Dorothy retired in 2007 and now lives independently in Estombar near B.J. 
     At 100 years of age, she is still quick-witted, humorous and always smiling.



Saturday, April 7, 2018

Azure-wings are here to stay

     April sees the start of the breeding season for many birds in the Algarve, none more remarkable than the Azure-winged Magpie, which is strongly defying predictions that it may be facing extinction.

     About the size of a blackbird but appearing bigger because of its multi-coloured body and much longer tail, the Azure-wing’s brash and boisterous behaviour also make it easy to spot.   
     Male and female are identical in appearance and they remain gregarious even though winter flocks are now loosening. Young couples, as well as monogamous pairs that have already bonded for life, will this month be home-building on the basis of a single new nest per tree.
     In Europe, Azure-wings occupy the southwest corner - the Algarve, southern Alentejo and the neighbouring Spanish province of Andalusia. They are found nowhere else except on the other side of the world - in China, Korea and Japan.
     Pleistocene fossil evidence has ruled out any notion that exotic Azure-wings were imported from the Far East by early Portuguese explorers. The resident European and East Asian populations were slowly split apart a million or more years ago with the advance of the last Ice Age.
      Once fairly scarce in the Algarve, they are now flourishing in woodlands, parklands and orange groves all across the region.  
     Their numbers seem to be ever increasing despite an ominous study published some years ago in the international science journal Nature.
     Researchers forecast that a quarter of all land and plant species in the world might be driven to extinction if greenhouse gas emissions were not drastically reduced.
     The authors of the study named the Azure-winged Magpie as one of the top ten climatically threatened bird species in Europe.
     The study predicted a loss of between 50% and 95% of the Azure-wings, depending on their ability to disperse and occupy suitable new areas in response to habitat changes brought about by global warming.
     While even now they do not care for sparsely vegetated, wind-swept areas and would be forced out by desertification, Azure-wings are extremely adaptable when it comes to diet.
      In addition to all sorts of creepy-crawlies foraged from trees, bushes and the ground, they enjoy fruits and nuts and are thus regarded by some farmers as a menace.
     Their popularity is also tainted by the fact that they will take eggs and young from the nests of song birds.
     Their audacity commonly stretches to swooping into gardens and backyards to raid kitchen scraps or leftover biscuits in cats’ and dogs’ bowls. Cheeky, but as Darwin explained, it’s the most adaptable and fittest that survive.
     While aggressive in some ways, Azure-wings within their own communities show compassion. Individuals within loose breeding colonies help each other with nest building, supplying food to incubating females and feeding fledglings.
     Along with other fellow members of the crow family, this is one of the brainiest species in the bird world. Its brain-to-body ratio equals that of the great apes, whales, dolphins and porpoises. It’s only slightly less than ours.
     Extinction? Not in our lifetime!   

Photo taken in the Algarve by Colin Key

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Winter and long-lets increasing

     The English couple at the centre of the first episode of the BBC’s “Get Away for Winter” series broadcast last month are among the ever-growing number of foreigners renting properties during the off-season, or even all-year-round.
     Trish and Dave Guilford from Sussex stayed in Ferragudo from mid-December to mid-February after their specially filmed search for an ideal winter getaway.  
      They chose a two-bedroom apartment at €650 a month and enjoyed their first stay in the Algarve so much that they have booked accommodation in Ferragudo for six months throughout the whole of next winter.
     Mandy Hughes, a Lagoa-based property consultant who managed the majority of the venues for the “Get Away for the Winter” filming in the Algarve last October, says the winter rental market here is very buoyant.
     “Every year we are seeing more visitors from both Europe and further afield, particularly America and Canada.”
     She says the winter trend provides a great option for local owners who rent their property out in the summer months but often have it standing empty over the winter.  
     “A quality, two-bedroom house or apartment in a good location can often be rented for between €500 and €800 per month plus utility costs in the winter.
     “There is not a great demand for villas over the winter as those visiting from November to April tend to be retired couples.”
     As many of the major holiday resorts almost shut down over the winter months, less publicised places such as Lagos and Ferragudo  are entertaining the bulk of the winter visitors. Mandy says.
     The long term rental market, involving lets of twelve months or more, has also become increasingly busy.

     “Property sales are a very important side of our business and we see that many overseas purchasers are opting to rent before they buy – giving themselves time to decide on their preferred area over a twelve month period rather than basing their property choice on relatively short holiday experiences.”

       Mandy notes that many of those investing in an Algarve property may be well placed to enjoy it either as solely a second home, or making the most out of their investment with holiday and long term lets.

     “In Algarve Sales and Rentals we have found that property owners are turning to us to manage the whole rental process for them. That includes advertising, finding tenants, arranging contracts and then getting the tenants settled into the property.  

     “The incentives to do this are many, not least of which is no  longer having to pay utilities, gardeners, maids and pool maintenance.

     “Once they have taken all their costs into account, 95% of owners come to the conclusion that they actually make more profit for a long-term rental than they do for the summer holiday market.”

      Trish and Dave Guildford, retirees who have fallen in love with the Algarve as a result of taking part in the first episode of the BBC’s “Get Away for the Winter” series, are also expecting to make a profit next winter.

     While renting in Ferragudo again, this time for six months from next October, they intend to rent out their Sussex home. They anticipate a far higher income per month from their own house than they will be paying in Ferragudo, plus saving on UK heating bills, food and other less expensive items here.

     Trish and Dave, who stayed in Ferragudo from mid-December to mid-February, say they would consider renting elsewhere in the Algarve in future years.

     “We love the Portuguese and especially the Algarve area with its beautiful scenery and glorious beaches and walks.
     “The feeling of friendliness from the locals is really lovely. We feel safe here and less stressed.”

  Trish and Dave

Friday, January 26, 2018

Aquarians of very different ages

Some fascinating comparisons between British expatriates born in the first week of the Aquarius sign of the zodiac are personified by Charles Every who turned 102 on January 20, and twin sisters, Mariota and Catriona Anderson, who are celebrating their  20th birthday today, Friday 26.
Although their homes are within a few kilometres of each other in the Lagoa area, Charles and the Anderson sisters have never met.
Despite the generation gap, and leaving aside all the usual horoscope baloney, they do indeed have much in common.
For starters, they have distinguished family backgrounds. The second son of the 11th Baronet Every. Much of Charles' early life was spent in the historic mansion of Egginton Hall in Derbyshire, Egland.
The Anderson sisters are direct descendants of the greatest Scottish bard, Robert Burns, and their original home was a castle near St Andrews in the kingdom of Fife in eastern Scotland.
Neither Charles nor the twins show any signs of pretentious aristocracy and they have certainly downsized in terms of accommodation.
Charles was educated at Harrow, one of England's foremost public schools, founded in 1572 by a Royal Charter granted by Queen Elizabeth 1. He disliked the school because “the people there were all too posh”.
The Anderson girls attended the Algarve International School in Porches, before studying for international baccalaureate diplomas back in Scotland.
A the age of 20, Charles was studying for a degree in architecture at London University. The Andersons are at present studying at King's College, London, for degrees in international relations.
Charles became familiar with international matters in his twenties during the Second World War. He served with the British armed forces in India and Burma. After the war he spent more than two decades pursuing a successful career as a town planner in South Africa.
On deciding to move to Europe in his early fifties, Charles ended up buying a house on the outskirts of Carvoeiro and moved into it permanently in 1969. He has lived here ever since.
The Anderson twins were just four months old when their parents, Fiona and John, brought them to settle in the Algarve in 1998.
In Charles' generation the young faced a deeply uncertain future because the world then was steeped in social and economical turbulence as well as international conflict. And so it is for Mariota and Cariona's generation today.
It's a very different world now, of course, with very different challenges. Life was generally much better in the old days, according to Charles.
The Anderson twins acknowledge that modern technology has both bettered some everyday problems and worsened others, but say that as students they must remain optimistic.
People generally are living longer nowadays. Population statistics have soared. The total population of the world when Charles was a lad was less than two billion. It's now about 7.6 billion. If the Anderson twins make it to Charles' present age, the world will be inhabited by an estimated 11.8 billion.
Females have long had a higher life expectancy than males, though the gap is narrowing. In Britain, when Charles was born, the average life expectancy for a man was 60 years. Today the average life expectancy in Western Europe is79 for a man and 84 for a woman.
As for Brexit or no Brexit, Britain for Charles is a thing of the distant past.. He intends to spend the rest of his days in Portugal and in the place he loves most of all the aquatic garden in his Carvoeiro home.
     While specialising in international relations, either or both of the Anderson twins may wish to pursue careers abroad, but their beloved “home” will always be the Algarve.

Mariota and Catriona 

Recent photo of Charles by Lisa

+ Sadly, Charles had to spend his birthday in hospital and undergo hip surgery after an early morning fall. He is  recovering but, given his age, is expected to remain in hospital for a week or more .