The Mirpuri Foundation’s mission to spread the word on the dangers of plastic to our oceans and human health, especially the poisonous nature of microplastics, has continued with a Sustainability workshop for students in Moura School Grouping, Alentejo.

Dr. Luíza Mirpuri, Mirpuri Foundation’s Medical Adviser, and Ana Agostinho, sustainability expert, led the workshop for around 120 young teenagers. 

While opening the session, Ana sought to establish the level of the youngsters’ awareness of sustainability issues and explained to them the serious pollution problems arising from single-use plastic items, not only in Portugal but across the world.

One statistic which proved to be an eye-opener to the assembled pupils was how long it takes for plastic to disappear after it has been produced, with youngsters surprised to discover that it never fully disappears at all.

Dr. Luíza led the second part of the workshop, warning about the harmful effects of plastic on human health and how this material is slowly “killing the human race”.

She told them that the world is already registering an increase in the number of individuals suffering from cancer, allergies and infertility, and asked the children if they were willing to stand by as their generation suffered and became susceptible to new diseases arising from the little-understood effects of plastic as a contaminant.

The children were given information on how plastics begin to break down into microplastics over the years and were shown how these tiny polluting particles are fed into the oceans and spread around the planet.

Pupils were shocked to hear how microplastics affect human health, and how, despite these effects, plastic continues to find its way into every aspect of their young lives, including the food on their plates and the clothes they wear each day.

Closing the workshop, Ana encouraged the teenagers to consider environmental alternatives to single-use plastic items. The pupils were given the chance to examine alternative products, such as bamboo toothbrushes and cutlery, and even offered their own ideas for possible substitute materials.

After the session, some of the students volunteered to be interviewed and to say what they had learned and what they may change in their lives because of what they had discovered. One of the students said: “Protecting the planet is in our hands! If all of us change at home, we can change the world”.

The professors were also impressed with the workshop, recognizing the importance of this initiative: “It is always important to remind how important it is to protect the planet, the oceans, sustainability. It was very productive and these lessons will stay for life”, said Maria do Carmo Varela.

As pupils left for the day, each was presented with a reusable bag for school use, a bookmark made entirely of recycled paper, and a reusable water bottle – a gift that further encourages them to become agents of change.