“The ocean is full of waste because humans have disposed of it carelessly”

Emeritus Professor University of Melbourne & Polymer Chemist

The use of plastic bags leaves enormous environmental damage. Almost never reused, and often ending up as litter, they cause the death of at least one million birds and 100,000 marine mammals each year.

To sea turtles, a plastic bag looks like a tasty jellyfish. A lost fishing net might look like some harmless seaweed. But to turtles, plastic pollution is deadly—so deadly that it kills a thousand marine turtles each year, according to new research.

The oceans are a veritable stew of sesame seed-sized bits of degraded plastic, commonly known as microplastics. They are either broken down from larger pieces of plastic or were already small particles, such as beads in facial scrubs.

Each square kilometer of ocean has 63,320 such particles floating at the surface, according to one recent study. The 2016 a report from the United Nations Frontiers estimated that East Asian seas were worst hit with levels some 27 times higher than average. Microplastics have been detected in environments as far-flung as Mongolian mountain lakes and the Arctic Circle.

What does that mean for human beings?

The jury is still out on if and how microplastic impacts various animals, including humans. But there is growing evidence to suggest it has the potential to mess with our health. So much so, that the UN has earmarked the tiny grains as one of six emerging environmental threats warranting further study.

What Can We Do?


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