A simple video of a turtle with a straw stuck up its nose sparked a young biologist’s crusade which received a special mention in an environmental competition and has now got enough money to start offering prizes to enterprising schoolchildren.
Straw Patrol, as Carla Lourenço’s project is called, began in the Algarve, where the
young marine biologist works at CCMAR - the University of the Algarve’s centre for marine sciences.
In truth, Straw Patrol is just another way of getting people to pick up rubbish. But it is the way that Lourenço appears to do it that has made all the difference.
Last weekend an initiative setting out from the new carpark at Faro beach saw 14 volunteers returning home with 267 kilos of rubbish, among them four car tyres, a radio and lots of bits of wood from the Faro beach walkway.
As Lourenço has been trying to impress on anyone prepared to listen, this kind of detritus - aside from being unsightly - can mean the difference between life and death for all kinds of marine animals.
Something as simple and ‘throw-away’ as a paper straw can “cause many problems”, she told Algarve university radio RUA FM.
“Sea birds die every year due to rubbish left on beaches. We think it is important to pass the message on”.
Thus Straw Patrol has been doing the round of schools, from Faro in the east to Cercal do Alentejo and Vila Nova de Milfontes in the west (Lower Alentejo).
In just one year, it has “held 22 lectures which reached around 660 students, organised nine beach clear-ups with the help of more than 300 volunteers who have together recovered more than 600 kgs of rubbish”, reports RUA FM.
But part of Straw Patrol’s message is to pass on the philosophy that marine organisms need our protection. And that’s where the special mention the project received in this year’s Yves Rocher Terre de Femme competition will come in.
Lourenço’s received €3,000 - and she now hopes to pass that money on in the form of prizes to school children that come up with enterprising ways of making others aware of how to protect the oceans and their living things.
As to her special mention, was she surprised? “Very”, she told Sulinformção. “I really wasn’t expecting it”.