|The skate! Gloves help with the sharp ridges.|
|Sea star! This one had only 4 arms.|
|Cunner fish! Also known as a chogee.|
In addition to finding animals like sea stars, one of the kids' favorite things to do on the kayak is to pick up trash they found in the ocean, which was mostly plastic. Like most people, the kids know that plastic in the ocean is bad for the animals and that they should clean it up, but don't know the details past "it's bad" and "it hurts animals". It occurred to me that I didn't know how to explain to the kids how a plastic water bottle goes from useful to deadly throughout its lifespan, so I did some research. Here's what I found:
What happens to plastic after we use it
Let's get an important bit of information out of the way that is the main cause of our problems with plastic: 91% of all plastic is not recycled. That means that 91% of all plastic finds its way into landfills to last several lifetimes, and some of that goes into the ocean. All of the problems detailed below that plastic waste creates could be lessened by just recycling. That being said, plastic production has its own negative environmental impact due to the oil needed to make the plastic the gas required to transport everything.
|The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, covering 1.6 million |
kilometers and roughly twice the size of Texas.
Microplastic waste is the quiet but enormous problem with marine plastic. These tiny plastic beads and fibers are smaller than 5mm in diameter, and are mistaken as food by birds and smaller animals (such as lugworms). These microplastics either choke the animals, or stay in their system for a while, which brings its own hazards. Plastics that aren't used for food transport often have chemicals like flame retardants, which are commonly carcinogenic or toxic. These chemicals work their way up the food chain: the smaller animals that eat the microplastics, and each successive animal in the food chain ingests these particles until it makes its way onto our dinner plates. Marine plastic waste doesn't just generate pictures of cute animals tangled up in nets: it's actually harming through our food.
|Visualization of plastic debris in the ocean. Each white dot is 20kg of plastic.|
Full and interactive visualization found at Sailing the Seas of Plastic
Link to buy a reusable straw for anyone who is interested.
Song of the week: Alrighty Aphrodite by Peach Pit
Until next time,
Parker, L. (2018, December 20). A whopping 91% of plastic isn't recycled. Retrieved from https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/07/plastic-produced-recycling-waste-ocean-trash-debris-environment/
Angel Water. (2017, September 13). The Life Cycle of a Plastic Water Bottle. Retrieved from https://angelwater.com/blog/life-cycle-plastic-water-bottle/
Fuhr, L. (2017, May 23). Why a global treaty is needed to tackle our plastics problem. Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/05/we-need-a-global-treaty-to-tackle-the-worlds-plastics-problem-heres-why
The Problem of Marine Plastic Pollution. (2017, December 20). Retrieved from https://www.cleanwater.org/problem-marine-plastic-pollution
Snowden, S. (2019, May 31). 300-Mile Swim Through The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Will Collect Data On Plastic Pollution. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/scottsnowden/2019/05/30/300-mile-swim-through-the-great-pacific-garbage-patch-will-collect-data-on-plastic-pollution/#1addec23489f
The impact of microplastics on marine life. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.exeter.ac.uk/research/feature/microplastics/