Plastics have a huge impact on our lives, from the food packaging to the car we drive to the computers and phones you’re reading this now on. However, the amount of one-time-use plastic is giving away to the idea of a perfectly-balanced ecosystem. There might come a time in the future where we might just get a pound of plastic with every three pounds of fish in the sea. This entire scenario depends on how we use and handle plastic on land.
Scientists have estimated that each year around 8 million metric tons of plastic get into the ocean. This adds up to the estimated 150 million metric tons of plastic already present and circulating over the oceans. Plastic is often mistaken as food for animals and has been found in 60% of all seabirds and in 100% of sea turtle species.
Recently, one such news that shook the world was when a whale washed ashore in the coastal area of the Philippines with 88 pounds of plastic trash inside its body. Just after China and Indonesia, the Philippines is the third-largest source of discarded plastic that comes to the ocean. The 1,100- pound whale had 40 plastic bags inside its stomach which included- 16 rice sacks, four banana plantation-style bags, and many shopping bags. When whales ingest plastic, they get a sense of fullness without getting the essential nutrients actually required by their body.
Ethan Edson, a research technician at the Field Robotics Laboratory at Northeastern University’s Marine Science Centre, says “For us, who are at the end of the line eating these fish, it’s not great to find out they might have a higher level of toxins because they’re ingesting these micro plastics.” These micro plastics are present in drinking water, honey, sea salt, beer and the evidence of this can be found in stool samples as well.
Edson concludes by saying, “We want to understand the biological significance and eventually the human health impact.” He has taken up a challenge to put his sensor, MantaRay to use to collect data on the various types of microplastics and also collect particles for further research.