Plastic is not so fantastic

Plastic is certainly not fantastic as far as the oceans are concerned, it seems.

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Published: Sat 17 Jan 2015, 9:18 PM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 7:49 PM

Recent research by a team of environmental scientists led by scientist Marcus Eriksen shows that there are 5.3 trillion pieces of plastic floating in our oceans. That’s about 270,000 tons — think 570 fully loaded Boeing 747s! That’s how much plastic there is in the ocean and the creatures of the sea are swallowing a whole lot of this.

Eriksen set sail to find out just how much plastic was finding its way into our oceans and it took him over six years to document his findings. This, of course, is only the icing on the cake. Scientists warn that there could be ten times more plastic at the bottom of the ocean. No one really knows. What they do know, however, is that we are dumping plastic by the ton into our rivers, which is then washing into the sea. Once in the sea, the plastic is swirled by currents and locked into large patches – there are five such patches of garbage in the oceans and these are known as the 5 gyres. One gyre is as large as the state of Texas! Go figure.

Our dependence on plastics has risen and continues to rise exponentially. It is truly impossible to imagine a world without plastics. Some countries have banned plastic bags, others have permitted the use of plastics only beyond a specified thickness, all in an effort at limiting the use of plastics. But what about that toy we buy our kids? Eriksen in fact, found a toy gorilla floating in the middle of the ocean!

Plastics are unavoidable but what kind of plastic we use can certainly change. The need of the hour is to find plastics that are completely biodegradable. Governments and leaders would do well to quickly pump money into researching this and coming up with an innovative solution to make biodegradable plastics.

Until that time, how we dispose of plastics must change. Plastic should not, on any account, find its way into our water bodies. Research has shown that the fish which consume plastic inadvertently often retain it in their bodies. Sadly, they develop deformities and eventually die thanks to the plastic that we dumped in their home, the ocean. Humans who eat such fish have also been found to carry plastic in their gut.

Plastic must be recycled. Granted, many developing nations find recycling of plastic a costly endeavour. But nations must be progressive and learn from earlier mistakes. It is imperative that we clean up our oceans and ensure that no plastic finds its way there again.



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