We are surrounded by plastics. It's found in the single-use packaging we throw away, in the goods that fill our stores, and even in the clothes we wear. In the first decade of this century we have created more plastic than all that was made in history up to the year 2000. And every year, billions of kilograms of this material end up in our oceans.
Plastic pollution has a direct and deadly effect on marine life. The ingestion of microplastics through seafood poses a serious threat to coastal communities where marine species are the main source of food. It has been shown that at least 276 marine species have been affected by plastic pollution, thousands of birds, turtles and marine mammals die each year by ingesting plastic when they mistake it for food or by getting stuck in it. It is estimated that 90% of seabirds have ingested plastic and that nearly 100,000 marine mammals die each year because of plastic.
Plastics can travel long distances and be transported from where you live, to our ocean, through the wind, rivers, drains and by direct action of people. Plastics in the oceans are projected to triple by 2040 if we don't take action now!
Once in the ocean, UV rays, wind, and ocean currents break the plastic down into tiny particles called microplastics. Microplastics, despite being very small, are dangerous for both marine animals and humans. Microplastics have been found in marine creatures, such as fish, mammals and birds, that accidentally consume them. Microplastics have also been found in drinking water, table salt, beer, and sometimes in the air we breathe.
Microplastics accumulate toxins on their surface and when marine animals consume them, the toxins accumulate in the food chain. This is called bioaccumulation and it reaches us, humans. When humans consume fish and shellfish that have ingested microplastics, we also consume the contaminants accumulated in them. By consuming the contaminants accumulated in fish and shellfish, we put our health at risk.
We have to go further...
Until recently, the use of the three Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) has been talked about as a way to avoid plastic pollution, but the reality is that 91% of this material is never recycled and recycling requires the use of raw materials and energy. In the world, one million plastic bottles are bought every minute and up to 5 billion plastic bags are used each year globally. To help the planet it is necessary to go further: to REJECT the consumption of plastics. Above all, single-use plastics such as spoons, disposable plates, straws, bottles, things that we should no longer use because they are causing serious damage to the environment.
The current recycling model is incorrect because the responsibility lies in the hands of the consumer and municipal agencies. Companies must go further and work hand in hand with their consumers or end users to make proper use of waste. The Extended Responsibility of the Producer is an environmental policy in which the producer also has a part in the responsibility until the end of the product's life cycle. It is important that decision makers develop public policies and regulations that promote and accompany the development and implementation of these strategies.
We can all help by reducing the consumption of plastic in your family environment, reusing your own bags, participating in beach cleanups and saying no to single-use plastic. Whoever you are, wherever you are, we all depend on the ocean!
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