It is thanks to incredible organisations to like plasticoceans.org that the issue of plastic is being discussed. In there shocking 2016 film we learn of the devastating impact plastics have on marine life.
It is a fact that every single piece of plastic that was ever made still exists. Plastics do not degrade in the same way organic material does. Plastics undergo a process called photodegradation. This is where the suns rays assist the oxidation of plastic making it more brittle and easy to break down. Most plastics end up in land fill and so receives very little natural light. Unfortunately a considerable amount plastic ends up in rivers and oceans. The plastic that does degrade breaks down into smaller pieces wreaking havoc in the ocean. The larger items act as lethal snares, where as smaller items are often mistaken for food leading to the death of sealife and birds.
The average useful life of a plastic item is 12 minutes. We produce over 300 millions tonnes of plastic each year, and over 8 million tonnes of this ends up in our oceans. I have personally noticed the amount of plastic in our waterways and oceans increasing over the last 20 years but what we see is the tip of the iceberg. This fact has been depicted beautifully by the iconic National Geographic cover picture in June 2018.
80% of ocean waste starts on land and makes its way to the ocean either directly or via waterways. The plastic then makes its way to the centre of one the planets 5 oceanic gyres. These are oceanic currents created by the earths rotation. It can take up to 20 years for these items to reach the centre of the gyre where it collects to form a giant "garbage patch". Watch the video below by seeker.com on the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
More than 50% of the plastic debris sinks to the bottom of the ocean. The plastic then becomes an unwanted addition to the food chain. Plastic consumed by birds and marine life remains in the stomachs of these creatures. They die either of malnutrition, as they no longer want to eat, or from being weighed down by the sheer weight of the ingested items. The plastics themselves attract water born chemicals and toxins that have leached into the water. Small plastic pieces are then mixed up with plankton and are ingested by sea life. Once ingested the toxins are released into the blood stream and end up being stored in fatty tissue. These fish then get eaten by bigger fish and eventually humans. The toxins have been linked to infertility, cognitive problems, cancers and endocrine dysfunction. When 60% of the population rely on fish as there main food source this alone is a health emergency.
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