Our straws, cutlery, goblets, and other plastic waste pollute… and kill! The 30 Million Friends Foundation recalls the urgency to act against this plague, which stifles and contaminates the fauna of our oceans. If a European text is to ban single-use plastics by 2021, France could have taken the lead on this issue.
In total, 8 million tonnes of plastic waste is found in the oceans each year, leaving countless victims, especially sea turtles – already weakened by the destruction of beaches suitable for laying eggs. Leatherback turtles generally confuse plastic bags with jellyfish, their favorite prey. Green turtles and loggerhead turtles, on the other hand, inadvertently ingest fragments attached to their food.
To this tragedy for turtles is added the invisible damage of plastic on the animals that build coral reefs. Those exposed to plastic waste are more susceptible to certain pathogenic microbes, or a risk of disease multiplied by 20! A dramatic effect, when we know that the reefs serve as nursery or habitat for many fish.
“Plastic continents” in the oceans
Collected by the current, garbage light enough not to sink accumulates in five gigantic oceanic vortices created by ocean currents (Indian Ocean, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Pacific, and South Pacific). If the term “plastic continents” evokes an image of vast solid expanses, it is actually a “soup” of the debris of all sizes.
Dipped in water, our bottles, cans and other food films are gradually degraded by UV rays and waves, forming small particles – microplastics – on which various pollutants come together. Marine animals ingest it as they pass through contaminated water, disrupting their growth and reproduction.
A recent study conducted in three ocean basins around the world (Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Pacific) has highlighted the extent of contamination for the seven marine turtle species on our planet. All the autopsied individuals – 102 tortoises stranded or accidentally caught – had microplastics in their bodies!
Prohibit disposable plastic items
If the sorting bin remains an important ally, recycling is not the miracle solution, since it does not yet apply to all types of plastics. Some materials, too fat or too thin, escape. According to the European Commission, 70% of plastics are not recycled, like the vast majority of packaging.
Following a proposal from the European Commission, an agreement was negotiated in December 2018 in Brussels to ban single-use plastic objects such as straws, cotton swabs, disposable cups and wastes found in the oceans and beaches. The text will have to be officially validated by the European Parliament and the Council of the U.-E. this year … For application by the Member States by 2021.
France has a (short) head start in this area since these products should be banned from 2020. Meanwhile, it is up to everyone to avoid buying disposable plastic dishes for example and to refuse this type of disposable items when they are distributed free of charge (cups, cups, cutlery …). The survival of turtles, corals and many other species depends on our action!
In the deepest oceans, animals contaminated with plastic
For the first time, researchers have proved that microplastics are found in the bowels of mini-crustaceans living deep in the ocean. An alarming finding.
Plastic waste has covered the surface of the seas and oceans. But even more shocking, we find these same wastes in the form of particles in the organs of marine animals living in the oceanic abyss.
Researchers have discovered microplastics in the bowels of mini-crustaceans that live about 11 km deep. This is the first time that such a statement has been made.
This news is related to the publication Wednesday, February 27 of a study in the journal Royal Society Open Science. The authors dissected 90 specimens of Lysianassidae amphipods, tiny shrimps that live in the bottom of the six deepest ocean trenches in the world. These seabeds are mostly around the Pacific Belt.
The materials found in the bodies of these marine animals are frightening: PVC, synthetic silk, nylon, polyethylene … The results of the studies are staggering: Sixty-five specimens contained at least one microparticle of plastic. This corresponds to more than 72% of the species studied.
In addition, plastic pollution affects all sites: 50% of specimens that live about 7,000 meters deep in the New Hebrides Trough in the Pacific have ingested plastic.
In the Marianas Trench, the deepest known to date (11,000 meters), 100% of the animals studied have ingested plastic.
“Part of me was expecting something, but not enough to have 100% of the people in the deepest place in the world with fiber in their bowels, that’s huge,” said researcher Alan Jamieson. in marine ecology at the British University of Newcastle, interviewed by AFP.
According to scientific estimates, more than 300 million tons of plastic are produced each year. Part of this waste is found in the oceans. 5,000 billion pieces of plastic float to the surface, weighing more than 250,000 tons. It is urgent to act, because these materials, by degrading, form microparticles that sink to the bottom of the sea and are swallowed by marine animals.
Plastic waste kills 1.5 million animals a year
“In the North Pacific, 30% of fish ingested plastic during their life cycle,” says a researcher. Toxins that end up, in the end, on our plate.
“The seventh continent” continues its killing of wildlife. In 2013, a million and a half animals were victims of plastic waste in the world’s oceans. According to Laurence Maurice, of the French Institute for Research for Development, the problem is likely to worsen.
The consequences of this marine pollution on animals are enormous. “In the North Pacific, 30% of fish ingested plastic during their life cycle,” said Laurence Maurice at a forum this week in Quito, Ecuador. All species are affected, from birds to whales to turtles. Many feeds on this waste, which is usually fatal. “A young albatross was found dead, stomach full of plastic because his parents had confused bottle caps with food,” she lamented.
The seventh continent grows by 80,000 square kilometers per year
When we talk about “the seventh continent”, we imagine a compact cluster of plastic bottles and cans. In reality, it is a set of microparticles difficult to identify, although we obviously find plugs and bags from time to time. There are five such formations in the North Pacific, South Pacific, North and South Atlantic, and Mid Indian Ocean. This pollution is the result of both the action of man, but also marine currents that promote the concentration of these microparticles.
The main area of global microparticle concentration is between California and Hawaii. Discovered in 1997, its size today reaches 3.5 million square kilometers, the equivalent of seven times the size of France. Each year, this pile of plastic grows 80,000 square kilometers.
As for the alert of this French organization, it is not the first of its kind. In 2011, the Society for the Conservation of Whales and Dolphins had already denounced this marine pollution. The latter was described in 2012 as “deadly soup” for animals by the journal Biology Letters.