Article by Arthur Masse
Recent studies show that the world’s plastic production is not going to stop growing. From 1.5 million of tons in 1950, it reaches the critical number of 322 million of tons in 2015. Even if the increase is stabilized since 2012 (around 3.4% per year), the average year increase since 1950 is 8.6%. Obviously if the developed countries are the ones consuming the most, the Asian area is today the world’s first producer of plastic with around 30%.
And on this amount of plastic consumption, according to a report from the Ellen Mc Arthur Foundation, eight million of tons of plastic are thrown to the ocean. An alarming number, as if every minute in the world a truck full of plastic is dumping it into the ocean. We already know for example that a huge waste plate exists in the north Pacific Ocean (called the plastic’s seventh continent), with a size of one third of the USA. This one shows in part how the amount of the plastic in the nature is critical. But what shows another study conducted by the Global Monitoring Center for Conservation and published in Marine Policy, is that the plastic will not only be present at the surface or in the low to mid depths of the oceans. Indeed, more than a half of waste under 6000 meters are plastics, with a disposable majority. And some plastics bags are even being found at places of more than 10000 meter deep.
Those plastics wastes are hurting and killing marine life, with two majors axes: The first one is that animals are eating these plastics or are stuck in it. Many examples exists and we can quote some very recent ones, as the whale found dead in Thailand because of having eat around 80 plastics bags. We can quote too the number of videos of animals stucked in nets as whales, whales sharks, dolphins, etc. But this is true for corals too. Here is the reverse: the plastic is locked in the coral, which stop his growth, be suffocated, and finally die. The second axe and not the more important is that lots of species stucked in plastics are transported through the oceans for years with the currents and are no more living in their usual area. This is a big danger for the marine ecosystem which loose some links of its food chain in some areas. If we don’t change our habits, according to the same report of the Ellen Mc Arthur, they will be more plastics than fishes in the ocean by 2050.
Finally, the plastic in the ocean can hurt us,humans, or is already doing it. Buy eating seafood, we are barely eating plastic. And this plastic is the one that has been thrown in the ocean. A study conducted by the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology has shown that 80% of Tokyo’s bay anchovies were containing micro plastics (plastic pieces usually separates for example by the wind, sun and currents in micro balls, all between 0.1 and 5 millimeters). And those anchovies are far to be the only fish species containing micro plastics. 114 species from every oceans all around the world are contaminated, and half of them finish in ours plates. But is there a real risk for us, humans?
It is very difficult to determinate today, because those micro plastics are also present in tap water, clothes, cosmetics or even air. There is nearly no places in the world without micro plastics. For sure they are dangerous for the fishes’ health, at a point that some governments think so for the human one. They are present in every link of the food chain, but those really small pieces can penetrate into the cells and go into the different muscles and organs. Different research are on the way, but scientist are more scared about their impact in the human body than their safety for the human health.
That’s why today, changing our behaviors and minds about plastics is not only for the differents ecosystems, but for our health too.