Accumulation of Plastic has become a global crisis and it’s time to get to the root cause of this crisis. Plastic is widely used in our daily life. Mostly it is disposed of after it's single-use contributing to 80% of marine plastic pollution that mainly originates from land-based sources. Every year 8 million tonnes of plastic waste enters the ocean and is estimated to reach 400 million tonnes a year by 2025. About 5% of plastic waste is found floating on the surface of the Ocean, the remaining 95% is found beneath the surface. One of the examples for the accumulation of plastic in bulk is “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch”. It is the largest accumulation ocean in the world, located in the north-central Pacific Ocean.
Impact on marine habitat
Plastic in the Ocean has a great impact on wildlife and habitats of marine ecosystems. Small plastic pieces are consumed by marine animals like fishes, turtles, and seabirds. Over a period of time, plastic being non-biodegradable breaks into small pieces (microplastics) and enters into the food chain. The plastic carries several micro contaminants such as pesticides, persistent organic pollutants (e.g. polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs) and heavy metals etc which is carried during manufacture. These harmful chemicals can be consumed by humans through long-term accumulation in fishes.
1. Fishes ingest approximately 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic each year, which harms the intestine of fishes and causes death. It leads to transferring plastic into the food chain to larger fish and marine mammals.
2. Sea turtles often mistake plastic garbage as their food that floats. Plastic can choke the intestine of turtles by sustaining an intestinal injury and cause death. Tragically, research indicates that half of the sea turtles in the world have become extinct because of ingesting plastic affecting their reproduction.
3. Plastic can interfere with the sunlight and oxygen from reaching the coral, which are two major things needed for corals to survive. Plastic also promotes the growth of harmful pathogens, transporting these into coral reefs.
What needs to be done
1. Newer technologies can be adapted to capture plastic waste at the initial stage itself.
2. Dumping of plastic into the seas, or using it for recreational purposes has to be avoided.