What is on the menu? “Plastic” (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD.)
Plastic never really goes away, it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces — so small the naked eye can’t see it.
Microplastics are harming water resources to an extent that is not fully understood by science today.
In a previous publication in this blog I have discussed aspects which I consider to be relevant behind the lack of knowledge identifying the impact from plastics in the functionality of the Oceans as Climate regulators:
- Could plastic debris, coarse, fine and molecules (polymers), affect oceans functions as climate regulator, CO2 sink, albedo, evaporation…? (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) Published on 17 July 2014.
The problems derived from releasing vast amounts of plastic as waste into the open generates issues which range from the mere degradation of sceneries aesthetically appealing, the impact over resources required to maintain the ecosystem’s equilibrium, the chemistry behind their degradation, up to the less evident and more harmful which is its incorporation in our own bodies as part of the trophic chain. The aquatic fauna in Rivers, Oceans and Lakes consume those plastics on all their sizes, and even as molecules in polymer form, and we eat them.
Any search for information in this subject will offer you many sources for you to look into.
Plastics on the menu
One example comes from two publications from 2015.
TheGuardian published on Thursday 12 February 2015 (by Andreas Merklthe) the presentation of a study questioning the final destination for the huge quantities of plastic entering the ocean.
Ocean plastic is likely disappearing into the food chain, new study indicates.
Since much of it isn’t accounted for, says Andreas Merkl, we should be concerned about where it’s ending up.
The drifting garbage patches we hear about in the news – such as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” – are the tiny tip of a man-made iceberg, accounting for probably just 5% of all the plastic waste that has been dumped, blown or washed into the sea.
New research published today in the journal Science offers the first real estimate at the quantity of plastic waste entering the ocean. And it doesn’t look good. The findings show that between 5 to 12m tonnes of plastics enter our ocean every year. This is on top of the 100 to 150m tonnes likely already in the ocean.
What’s truly worrying me is the missing plastic. We don’t know where all this plastic goes. We know that most of it never deteriorates. Instead it “weathers”, breaking down into ever smaller parts, most invisible to the eye. The often-publicized plastic gyres hold less than 5% than the estimated total. Some is trapped in Arctic ice; more sinks to the sea floor; and a good bit rests on beaches and shorelines. But where is the rest?
We know that plastic in the ocean is eaten by animals; we find it in every species of fish we examine, and it has caused the death of countless seabirds, turtles, and ocean mammals. We are afraid that a good bit of the missing plastic is actually inside the animals.
The new Science study identifies where the plastic is coming from: it originates mainly in developing countries, with rapidly growing populations and emerging middle classes, which are consuming more and more plastic.
A different publication was presented on the 25 September 2015 at http://www.newscientist.com by .
Plastic in the food chain: Artificial debris found in fish.
Chelsea Rochman at the University of California Davis school of veterinary medicine and her team visited a fish market in Half Moon Bay and Princeton in California and in Makassar, Indonesia.
In California they sampled 76 fish from 12 species and one shellfish species, and in Indonesia 76 fish from 11 species. All had been caught nearby. The animals were dissected and their guts treated chemically to dissolve body tissue and reveal any plastic and fibre debris they contained.
The team found that 55 per cent of the fish species sampled in Indonesia contained human-derived debris. This included Indian mackerel, shortfin scad and silver-stripe round herring. In total, 28 per cent of the fish sampled contained the debris, with one having 21 pieces of plastic inside it.
In the US, 67 per cent of the species – including the pacific oyster – contained the debris. The species included Pacific anchovy, striped bass and Chinook salmon. A quarter of the individual fish sampled were affected.
Textile fibres made up the majority of human-made debris found in fish in the US, while plastic dominated that found in Indonesia’s fish. “I was very surprised to see such a difference in type of debris between locations,” says Rochman.
“This clearly shows that plastic is in our food chain,” says Pete Davison of Farallon Institute for Advanced Ecosystem Research in California. “There is now quite a bit of literature showing that a wide variety of marine species consume plastic. It is likely to be happening everywhere.”
Journal reference: Scientific Reports, DOI: 10.1038/srep14340
Every little counts
As part of my own contribution into the issue of managing knowledge addressing the impact from plastics in our environment I want to make some space in this blog to promote and acknowledge initiatives addressing those topics. In a previous post I presented a small association from Galicia-North west Spain called Mar de Fabula.
Today I want to present an initiative from the Canadian Wildlife Federation promoting a petition to urge the Government of Canada to continue to address the issue of plastic waste.
With over 202,000 km of coastline along three oceans and 891,163 square kilometres of its total area covered by fresh water, Canada is a nation defined by its connection to water. Unfortunately, those waters are under threat from a growing environmental concern: microplastics.
The Government of Canada has taken an important first step by recently adding microbeads to the List of Toxic Substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act; however, there are still many other sources of microplastics polluting our waters. In fact, in a recent study researchers found microplastics in every sample that was taken near shore areas along both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.
More assessments presenting chronologically the line of research published in this blog can be accessed in the category Framework and Timeline.
Among those posts related: