Plastic pollution is wreaking havoc on the marine ecosystem
EDITOR: Single use plastics can be defined as any plastic that is used once and is discarded – for example, plastic bottles, plastic straws, plastic bags, plastic food wrappers, etc. Humans have been using single use plastics for many years because it is cheap to produce, highly durable in different conditions, against (physical stress, transportation, handling and stacking load), it acts as a strong barrier against moisture, air, water, bacteria, and light.
With this “popularity’’, single use plastics are having a negative impact on the Marine Environment, because they are non-biodegradable, which means that they remain in the environment for a very long time before it is broken down; for example, a plastic bottle can last up to 450 years to biodegrade, while a plastic grocery bag can take up to 20 years.
When single use plastics enter the ocean they are broken down by wave action and sunlight into ‘’micro plastics’’. Micro plastics are tiny particles less than 5 millimetres in size, which are worn down from larger particles polluting the oceans, such as bottles and bags. Micro plastics are usually mistaken for food by marine animals and when consumed it blocks their digestive system causing them to die.
In May of 2018, a pilot whale died off the coast of southern Thailand with 80 plastic bags in its stomach and in 2015 in Costa Rica a sea turtle was found with a plastic straw in its ‘’nasal cavity’’, luckily a group of biologist rescued it. According to the United Nations latest report, more than eight million tonnes of plastic leaks into the world’s ocean each year, equivalent to dumping a garbage truck of plastic every minute. The report also went on to state that in the year 2050 if nothing is done there would be more plastic than fish in the ocean, hence the reason why countries around the world need to reduce their plastic consumption.
Here are some tips for the reduction of plastic consumption:
- Carry a reusable shopping bag at the supermarket.
- Use a paper straw instead of a plastic straw.
- Purchase a reusable water bottle.
- Keep some silverware at your office so that when you are buying lunch you would not have to use any plastic cutlery.
- Companies should produce more biodegradable packaging and also more recycling should be done.
In conclusion, countries around the world need to take drastic measures to reduce their plastic consumption, if this does not happen soon we can expect a lot of marine animals to die from eating plastics, which could then lead to ‘’extinction’’ and also a loss of livelihood for fishermen.