Plastic is strong, flexible and durable. It’s extremely useful and in the last decades, it would be hard to imagine life without it. Plastic’s strength is also nature’s nemesis, because plastic virtually never breaks down. For example, a plastic bottle can last for 450 years in the marine environment, slowly fragmenting into smaller and smaller pieces until it becomes microscopic. Those microscopic specks, otherwise known as microplastics, don’t go away. It’s mind bending to realize that every piece of plastic that was ever produced is still with us in some form.1
According to Surfers Against Sewage, one of the United Kingdom’s most active and successful environmental charities, 12 million tons of plastic find their way into the oceans every year, and scientists have discovered microplastics embedded deep in the Arctic ice. It’s no wonder that 80% of the marine debris studied is made of plastic.2
Fishing debris such as nets and lines, filmlike wrap such as what is used on store bought vegetables, and latex, which makes things such as balloons, are responsible for the most deaths among 80 marine megafauna species that include dolphins, whales, seals, seabirds and sea turtles.3 As of 2018, 100,000 marine mammals and turtles plus one million sea birds are killed by plastic pollution annually.4
Plastic debris affects wildlife adversely via three key methods: entanglement, ingestion and interaction.5
• Entanglement occurs when marine animals are trapped or constricted most commonly by plastic rope, netting and abandoned fishing gear.
• Ingestion occurs when a species unintentionally or indirectly ingests another species that contains plastic. For example, if a fish eats microplastics or even a larger size piece of plastic waste and a shark eats that fish, then both have ingested plastic waste. By the same token, humans ingest plastics whenever microplastics are embedded in sea creatures turned into seafood.
• Interaction includes collisions, obstructions or abrasions. For example, floating fishing gear has been shown to cause abrasion and damage to coral reef ecosystems upon collision.
With one in three fish caught for human consumption now containing plastic, the question is no longer are we eating plastic but how bad is it for us? Researchers caution that it’s unclear what effect microplastics can have on the human body but they have been found in everything ranging from fish and shellfish found at the super market to tap water. In seawater, plastic absorbs chemicals such as PCBs, which have been linked to endocrine disruption and even some cancers. Even people who do not eat fish are impacted, because 70% of the oxygen we breathe is produced by marine plants, and to breathe is to live!6
Plastics are not going away. Its usefulness pervades our lifestyles: diabetics benefit from plastic each time they use their disposable syringes; they’re in the appliances used in hip replacements; construction workers wear it in their protective helmets; it’s in our computers, phones and cars.
One of the main problems is the pervasiveness of single-use plastics. A plastic bag, for instance, is used for an average of 15 minutes when shopping and may take up to 300 years to deconstruct into microplastic!7 Reuter, an international news agency, reported that as of 2018, 481.6 billion plastic bottles were used worldwide in a single year. That’s 40 billion per month and 1.3 billion per year.8 And, plastic production has been forecast to grow by 60% by 2030 and to treble by 2050.9
Practicing an Active Wellness lifestyle not only means being mindful of our own health but also the health of planet Earth. We are all part of nature and each one of us can do something daily to decrease the amount of plastic waste we produce. Since single use plastic is one of the biggest problems we face, that’s a good place to start. Visit repurpose.global to calculate your own annual plastic footprint.
You still have a few days left to take advantage of our special PiMag® Water Packs, available through April 30, 2022. PiMag® products not only help filter out bacteria and alkalize water but also help eliminate the use of plastic water bottles. The special PiMag® Water Packs give you two items with one at the regular price and the second at 50% off. You will benefit personally as well as be part of the environmental solution that planet Earth needs.
3 parade.com/zoo, April 17, 2022, Kathleen McCleary