Ocean currents carry plastic instead of nutrients
In May 2020, the BBC reported on a University of Manchester-led study which found up to 1.9 million plastic pieces per square metre on the sea sand lying at the bottom of the Mediterranean near Italy. More microplastics have been found in even deeper regions, including ocean canyons and deep-sea trenches.
The underwater currents carrying oxygen and nutrients throughout the ocean would also carry those microplastics to the biodiversity hotspots, increasing the chance of ingestion by marine life.
While our understanding of deep-sea ocean regions is still in its infancy, researchers suspect the currents could put large regions of marine organisms at risk.
Toxicity could extend to humans as well
When marine life is at risk, humans are also at risk. For example, microplastics have been detected in canned fish. The same is probably true for fresh fish and seafood.
It is a real problem of toxicity since microplastics and plastics are generally created with toxic chemicals. Consuming too high a concentration of these chemicals could lead to long-term problems such as cancer. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says more study is needed to quantify the effects.
Reversing the Trends
It’s time to change course.
Some changes are already underway. In 2015, the United States government passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act banning microbead plastics from personal care products such as toothpaste.
But laws are just the start. More solutions will come through consumer behaviour.
As a consumer, make sure you encourage companies that are making a difference. Today you can find responsible companies manufacturing home appliances, cars and computers using parts made from recycled plastics. Here is HP’s first laptop made with parts recycled from ocean-bound plastics.
At the same time, support your local recycling programs and dispose of your used plastics according to local recycling regulations. In most cases, it’s as easy as putting the plastic in the recycling bin for curbside pickup.
Local stores or community events often take back items like e-waste for safe recycling at the industrial level.
We see positive trends in the recycling sector, but there’s so much more to do.
We’re only at the beginning!