Monitoring marine litter on Funchal beaches (Madeira Island): Insights for litter management

In this study, a two-year monitoring programme (July 2020 to April 2022) of macro-litter was conducted on two beaches in Funchal, the largest city and capital of the Madeira island. The abundance, composition, sources, and pathways of the stranded marine litter were assessed following OSPAR guidelines. The mean litter density was found to be 0.29 items/m2, and the beaches’ cleanliness index ranged between ‘very clean’ and ‘dirty’. It was assessed that cigarette butts (30.9%) and plastic objects (30.7%) were the most frequent marine litter items that were identified, followed by paper or cardboard (9.2%) and metal items (8.3%). The present study reveals that most of the monitored marine debris has a land-based source, with a strong contribution from smoking-related activities and littering in streams. By characterising the waste and identifying its source, it is possible to propose integrated management actions at a local level. The study highlights that outreach activity and raising awareness campaigns, together with actions to limit single-use plastic items and stimulate a circular economy, can help limit marine litter pollution on the studied island.

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