We all know the reality of plastic, as a material it is indispensable for our modern world, it is simply present in any element, device or utensil that we use daily, it would be unnecessary to make a list of all the items that we normally use and contain or are made of plastic. That is why its function and usefulness is indisputable to maintain our modern lifestyle, but it is also undeniable the damage it has caused to the environment due to its excessive use, and its impact on marine wildlife is already bordering on the intolerable.
Marine fauna is threatened by plastics. Source: pixabay.com.
Surely anyone who lives near the coast will agree with me when I say that it is enough to take a walk along the beach to realize how our addiction to plastic ruins this beautiful ecosystem, and the beautiful landscape contrasts with bottles, bags, caps and disposable utensils that are always present.
There are even walks that can be very moving, as we can come across animal carcasses that have been victims of this material, and we can see their carcass still entangled between pieces of a fishing net or the pieces of plastic they ingested.
The garbage left on the shore of the beach reaches our oceans. Source: pexels.com.
Not to mention that a large amount of plastic pollution is imperceptible to our sight, it is the pollution produced by microplastics, those small pieces of plastic that are produced from the degradation of the material by the effect of the sun and other elements and can be up to 5 mm in diameter or less, causing much damage to the marine species that ingest it to confuse it with their food.
I believe we are reaching a point where discarding tons of plastic after just one is simply unsustainable and dangerous to ourselves, as these microplastics have already entered our trophic chain.
Let's look at some of the major marine animals that are victims of our plastic waste.
There are many animals that mistake plastics for a food source, but especially sea turtles mistake the bags that reach the ocean for jellyfish and ingest them, and since they have a digestive system that prevents them from expelling the food when they regurgitate the water they swallow along with it, they often block their digestive system, dying of starvation.
Many sea turtles die due to plastic ingestion. Source: pixinio.com.
Although there are many factors that have influenced the decline of the sea turtle population, plastic pollution is undoubtedly among the main ones.
Fish, as well as any other marine animal that breathes underwater, are severely affected by microplastic debris, as it is much more difficult to remove this type of waste from their gills than when it is ingested orally.
Fish are also a species greatly affected by plastics. Source: pexels.com.
The problem does not end there, as the issue with fish is that they are part of our food, so microplastics could already be part of our lunch.
Plastics can affect many species of seabirds, on the one hand fish are also part of their diet, so microplastic contamination also reaches this species by this route. However, the marine species that has been most affected by plastic waste is the Laysan albatross, as these materials interfere with its hunting technique.
This animal dives into the water to catch fish or other food, using its beak to pick it up by skimming the surface of the water, in this process they also pick up pieces of plastic, and swallowing them causes obstruction of the digestive system, even perforating internal organs. Not to mention the number of birds that get entangled in the remains of fishing nets and other plastic debris.
Example of a bird that caught a fish trapped inside a plastic bag. Source: Wikipedia.org.
So what can we do?
Plastic pollution affects many marine species, and maintaining the balance in this ecosystem is everyone's responsibility as it is essential to ensure our quality of life, so it depends exclusively on us to put an end to this problem, so the first thing we must do is to stop ignoring this situation and start making the necessary changes in our style and way of consumption, as we must all work on minimizing our consumption of plastics and be responsible for the way we dispose of it.
So basically we should start by saying no to plastic as much as possible, it is certainly difficult in our society to give up plastic completely, and it can be a real challenge to completely remove it from our lifestyle. But we can always avoid consuming too much single-use plastic, we can use reusable market bags, use paper cups and straws among others. I think we can find many ways to minimize our plastic waste.
We can all collaborate in keeping the beaches clean. Source: Wikimedia.org.
The other thing we should do is to pick up our own waste, it is something obvious but it is overlooked by many, if we go to the beach or any park we should be aware and take home our garbage or deposit it properly, so that the wind does not disperse it in the place after retiring. And why not, also pick up the waste we find, I think we do not lose anything by picking up the waste thrown by someone else.
Well friends, these are just a few lines that I hope will help us to create awareness of this great problem so that we can put a stop to it before it is too late and more species succumb to this terrible evil.