Each litre of sea ice in the Arctic contains 12,000 microplastic particles of 17 different types. More than half is less than one-twentieth of a millimetre, according to the report by the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, published last Wednesday in the science journal Nature Communications.
Almost a week goes by without an investigation revealing the ravages caused by the improper use of plastic materials. Just fifteen days ago the authorities of Murcia (Spain) reported the results of the necropsy to a sperm whale that died on the beach of Cabo de Palos: 29 kilograms of plastic were found in its stomach and intestines, including a container of water.
Billions of small plastic particles and large pieces haunt all the seas and their depths. Is that the oceans are arriving each year at least eight million tons of different classes of this product, in whose manufacture consumes 6% of the oil taken from the bowels of the earth.
On January 26, an article in the journal Science showed that at least 11,000 million microplastics are found in 125,000 corals studied in the Pacific region (Australia, Thailand and Myanmar), affecting the health of 89% of them. There were from chairs to baby diapers, according to Joleah Lamb, one of the authors.
Microplastics are formed when plastics – the cigarette with which the lemonade is taken and then discarded, those that are given in the store to load the market, the glasses dispensed by the coffee machine, the individual sugar packages – fall apart and they are ingested by a large number of marine animals that confuse them with food.
On March 22, a study in the specialized publication Scientific Reports reported that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as it is called one of the points of the oceans to which the currents carry the garbage, measures 1.6 million square kilometres, 400,000 more than Colombia, and contains about 79,000 tons of plastic,
Microplastics, which barely contribute 8% of the mass, are 94% of the 1.8 billion pieces in the patch, in which the networks constitute 46%.
And it becomes a dumpster
Why does so much plastic trash come to the oceans? The production is huge and the final disposal in an adequate way is reduced.
In the 50 there were two million tons a year. In 2016 they were 335 million, half of which are only used once. Thus, since the middle of the last century, there have been 8,300 million tons, of which 6,300 million finished as garbage. Only 9% was recycled, according to research from the Universities of Georgia and California in Santa Bárbara, published in the journal Science Advances. It is estimated that 79% of production accumulates in landfills or in the environment.
The first studies on the amount of plastic that reaches the oceans occurred in 1975: 6.4 million tons, adding only what was thrown by ships, military operations and ship accidents.
The latest analysis, presented in 2015 by Jenna Jambeck and colleagues in the prestigious Science , showed that in 2010 alone the seas reached 12.7 million tons, contributed by residents in 192 coastal countries, or between 1.7% and 4.6% of the 32 million metric tons of plastics poorly disposed in these cities, which enter the sea and become a threat to life.
It is not surprising then that 18 tons of 18 million pieces had been found on the small and uninhabited Henderson Island in the Pacific, according to researchers from the University of Tasmania. 68% of the waste was a few centimetres under the sand. Each day, they estimated, 13,000 pieces arrive.
All this has an impact on marine life, apart from affecting ecosystems. A review of studies by S. Gall and R. Thompson of the Center for Marine Biology at the University of Plymouth found reports of 693 species harmed by waste. 17% of these, due to entanglements with plastic remains or ingestion, are in the red books of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as threatened or almost threatened.
Calculations by other researchers published in Global Change Biology suggest that 52% of turtles have ingested plastic. Last September, for example, the Colombian Navy published a video of several infants who found a turtle entangled in the fibres of a net on the high seas, removed it, removed the ropes that held its fins and head and returned it to the water.
It is striking what happens with seabirds, one of the most affected groups: in 80 of 135 species with cases reported between 1962 and 2012 were individuals who had ingested plastic.
What to do
Although it causes serious environmental damage, it is impossible to assume a life without plastics. From clothes to cars and computers have it. “We sleep in them, we use them, we see them and we are in direct contact with this in one way or another in the day and night,” said John Vidal, in an article in The Guardian, former environmental editor of that medium. The problems come from the exaggerated and unnecessary use and the inadequate final disposition.
The organization Earth Day Network estimates that every minute we acquire one million plastic bottles and we use more than 4 billion bags a year, in addition, we consume 500,000 million disposable cups. It is precisely the packaging of products that marks the production, representing in 2015 42% of the plastics without fibre.
For experts like Vidal, it is necessary to go beyond the prohibition of the use of certain items such as bags (a necessary measure) to reach a global regulation of these products in order to rationalize production and use.
In the United Kingdom, the collection of the bags reduced by 9,000 million these packages, estimating a drop of 30% in those that reach the ocean.
The Colombian Ministry of the Environment, when evaluating the first year of the tax on the stock exchanges, estimated that the use per Colombian fell from 25 to 15, with a 30% decrease in its production.
Karnataka, India, banned any plastic item to pack or load.
And about 100 cities in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia have banned the use of expanded polystyrene or icopor, whose intensive use in food packaging is one of the most problematic when not decomposed.
A growing problem that arises in each person and company due to the unnecessary use and consumption of many products and the incorrect way to close the cycle.
Source: El Colombiano