Heading for the beach this holiday? And why not?
Beaches and coastlines are central to many holidays and being in a clean, natural environment helps to promote relaxation and peace of mind...
Hate to be the one to break it to you, but 80% of all pollution in the ocean comes from people on land.
If you’ve been watching BBC's Blue Planet II, you’ll know what incredible, beautiful and fascinatingly wondrous places our oceans are. Countless millions of fish inhabit the sea, and besides being an important food source for much of the world's creatures, oceans also regulate our climate and provide up to 70 per cent of the world's oxygen. They are, by far, the largest ecosystems on Earth.
And yet they are now drowning under the weight of a rising tide of plastic. With eight million tonnes of the stuff ending up in the sea every year, it is estimated that by 2050, the weight of all of the plastic in the ocean will be more than the weight of all the fish. Plastic in the ocean injures marine animals, is being broken down and swallowed by fish and then absorbed into our food supply system. This is the impact of our "disposable" culture and it is more acute - and more threatening - than ever before.
THE FINAL STRAW
Although plastic drinking straws amount to a tiny fraction of ocean plastic, their size makes them one of the most insidious polluters because they entangle marine animals and are consumed by fish.
Americans, for example, get through up to 500 million straws in a single day. To put that into perspective, that number could fill 125 school buses every day and works out to a mind-blowing 46,000 buses full of little plastic tubes, every single year. With a lifespan of all of about 20 minutes, each of these straws can take up to 500 years to decompose. Yes, that means you’ll be dead, buried and digested by worms long before your straw - and every other piece of plastic on earth right now - ever biodegrades.
The Final Straw Cornwall campaign, like may similar campaigns across the world are encouraging businesses and individuals to stop using plastic straws and proposes a complete ban on them in future, similar to the one that is due to come into effect in Seattle in 2018, which will prohibit the use of plastic straws and cutlery in the city. If it goes ahead, Cornwall will be the first place in the UK to enact such protection.
UK PUB CHAIN BANS PLASTIC STRAWS BECAUSE THEY END UP IN THE OCEAN
Redcomb Pubs managing director Dan Shotton said: “Our pubs use thousands of straws and plastic stirrers each year and, by removing them from our business, we will be positively contributing to the worldwide efforts to help reduce plastic waste and its negative impact on our coastlines, marine life and oceans...
“All too often, straws and stirrers are added to drinks without customers even asking for them. This simple act has devastating implications for up to 200 years, the time it takes for plastic straws and stirrers to biodegrade - a far cry from the relatively short time it takes for you to finish your drink."
THE PERILS OF PLASTIC
Plastic debris constitutes one of the most serious threats to ocean health, and it is us who puts it there. Even if you don’t live near the coast, your plastic waste can still find its way to the ocean. A plastic water bottle blown into the street can travel down a stormwater sewer, into rivers and streams, and out into the ocean.
TYPES OF PLASTIC
1. Consumer Products
Plastic debris comes in many different types and sizes that we buy and use ourselves, including disposable water bottles, plastic grocery bags, fishing net, fishing line, plastic cups and lids, packaging, water balloons, and straws. In the marine environment, these types of debris can harm wildlife when animals mistake plastic for food, or accidentally entangle themselves in plastic littering our shorelines or floating in the ocean.
Plastic does not biodegrade. Instead, once discarded into the environment, it breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces the longer it is exposed to the sun; a process called photodegradation. Any plastic particle less than 5 mm in diameter is categorized as a microplastic. Although small, these plastic pieces can have huge effects on ocean health.
Microfibers and Microbeads
Some microplastics can start small and end up in the ocean. Microbeads were used in products such as face scrubs and exfoliators; however, microbeads are being phased out under national law.
Even clothing sheds microplastics, called microfibers, from washing polyester, rayon and other synthetic fabrics. In a recent study, microfibers accounted for 97% of all microplastics found in beach sands in National Parks. Currently, municipal wastewater treatment systems do not yet have technology to remove microplastics.
Harmful chemical pollutants can also attach to plastics and add to the toxicity of plastic debris consumed by animals. Risks to human health from micro-plastics in seafood are currently being assessed.
EFFECTS OF PLASTIC
Plastic poses a serious threat to our oceans and waterways. Birds, turtles, fish, and other marine life ingest the plastic pieces, mistaking them for fish eggs, plankton, jellyfish, or other food sources. Every year, hundreds of thousands of sea creatures, both large and small, die from complications relating to plastic debris – they may have a stomach full of plastic that they cannot digest, or they may become fatally entangled in debris.
Apologies to kids for some of the language in this clip, but NOT for showing how OUR collective carelessness is causing suffering to unsuspecting sea creatures.
Check out too, Straw Wars on National Geographic.
World Oceans Day: 8 June 2018. Celebrated each year on 8 June since 2009, World Oceans Day is an opportunity to raise global awareness of the challenges faced by the international community in connection with the oceans.
Change starts with you
There are many things we can do as individuals to reduce our plastic consumption, and remember to use less plastic and recycle the plastic that you must use.
On World World Oceans Day, people around our blue planet celebrate and honor the ocean, which connects us all. Get together with your family, friends, community, and the planet to start creating a better future. Working together, we can and will protect our shared ocean.
PLASTIC POLLUTION LESSON PLAN
Plastic Pollution Lesson Plan was designed with youth in mind, so that young people will use this resource to teach their peers and community members about plastic pollution, inspire them with solutions, and empower them by doing an activity. It is easy to follow and can be done from anywhere!
You could also check out CNN's Zero Plastic Lunch Day. On June 8th 2018, CNN is asking students around the world to celebrate World Oceans Day with a Zero Plastic Lunch - a lunch with no single-use plastic components.