Marine plastic pollution is a huge problem, with five trillion pieces of plastic now floating in the world’s oceans. The plastic is frequently mistaken for food by fish and birds, causing damage to life throughout the seas. And these are just the bits you can see: not the microscopically small bits that combine with plankton, coating them with cancer-causing ‘persistent organic pollutants.’
Research estimates that at least 1trillion (that’s a million million, ie 1,000,000,000,000) pieces of plastic have been frozen into the Arctic ice over past decades, making it a major global sink for plastic pollution, many times more concentrated than the well-known Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and doing ‘extreme harm’ to the fragile Arctic environment. With global warming expected to melt the entire ice cap eventually, that plastic will be released, making the pollution problem even worse.
“Almost every fish and bird that has been cut open for science, we find plastic inside it. It is really hard to find an animal that doesn’t have plastic inside it,” according to an Oceanographer at Imperial College, London.
There is fast-growing evidence of direct harm to animals that eat plastics, including young fish starving, oysters stopping reproduction and birds being weighed down Furthermore chemicals in the plastic or absorbed by them add to the harm, he said. “The small pieces of plastic become very potent pills, full of toxic chemicals.” And you can be sure: if there’s plastic inside the fish and the birds, there’s plastic inside us.
What can you do about it? Cut out the plastic bottles and bags. Just say NO to plastics. Take a re-useable bag when you go shopping. It’s quite easy. And, if you picnic on the beach, TAKE YOUR TRASH AWAY WITH YOU. Don’t leave it on the beach. The ocean is not a flush toilet.
“The most important thing we extract from the ocean is our existence” (Sylvia Earle). So please stop poisoning it!
Footnote: Solid Waste is organising a clean-up along the Maurice Bishop Highway from 6 am on Saturday, 5 August, to mark the end of (Anti-)Litter Week. Please do join in.
Grenada Green Group