We manufacture over 300 million tonnes of plastic a year – that is equivalent to the weight of the entire adult population of the planet. Half of that we use just one, sometimes only for a few seconds, and then we throw it away. And while plastic is an amazingly versatile and useful product, it is virtually indestructible and production has outpaced the planets ability to deal with the waste we are producing. Landfill is not the answer and there are just not enough recycling facilities around to deal with it. Poor waste management coupled with human neglect has resulted in plastic pollution covering our planet like a disease. Inevitably it is ending up in our lakes, rivers and oceans. Scientific evidence has shown that around 8 to 12 million tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans EVERY YEAR where it harms the whales, dolphins, turtles and seabirds that we love so much as well as countless other marine creatures.
However the problem is far worse. As it journeys on ocean currents for many years the plastic breaks down due to the action of the sun and waves into tiny particles called microplastics. Unfortunately these attract toxins, toxins that can cause all manner of diseases in humans. These toxins have found there way into the oceans over many years from industrial and agricultural sources. Fortunately the ocean has taken care of us, diluting them to concentrations that reduce the harm they can cause. UNTIL NOW. The toxins are hydrophobic and float in the surface layer of the ocean. When they come into contact with any of the billions of plastic microparticles they are adsorbed by the plastic. These plastic particles are being ingested by marine animals and as they do so these toxins are being passed up the food chain, becoming more concentrated as they do, almost like miniature toxic time bombs. Ultimately we are at the top of that food chain and the outcome could be potentially catastrophic.
“We have to act. We have to act now to try and clear up some of the appalling damage we have made to the ocean … and that is going to require positive action”
Sir David Attenborough