February 27, 2017
The ABC's War on Waste is looking at ways of combatting the huge and growing problem of plastic pollution in our oceans.
Ocean plastic is a huge problem for several reasons. Fish, marine mammals, and birds are often injured or trapped by stray plastic. They also consume waste plastic, causing toxins from plastics to make their way up the food chain into our food, or an animal may die from ingesting too much plastic. The University of Queensland recently surveyed a local turtle population and found one in three turtles had eaten plastic.
Many people are surprised to find that nurdles, the small beads used as the base material for making plastic products are also a major source of ocean pollution. As they are transported around the world they often spill from ships, trucks and containers into waterways and the wider environment.
Similarly plastic microbeads found in many cosmetics products are a big problem, and are being phased out by the USA and New Zealand, with pressure for Australia to follow.
Once in the ocean plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller particles, making it impossible for fish and animals to avoid or distinguish from food, or to be collected and removed from the water.
Wherever possible reduce your use of plastic. Begin small:
When you do end up with plastic items and materials recycle them whenever you can. Good recycling programs keep plastic out of landfill and the environment.
Litter is one of the biggest sources of ocean plastic. Littered items are washed down rivers and drains directly into the ocean. So when you’re at the beach, walking the dog or heading to work, if you see it on the ground pick it up. You can also:
Don't add to the problem. When you're out and about take your litter home with you, and recycle what you can as suggested above., or place in a bin. Keep in mind:
Your personal actions are part of the solution but to really deal with this issue governments and companies need to make changes. You can help create this change.
Carol worked at Planet Ark in the PR and Media Team in 2017.