How Plastics Are Harming Our Oceans

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Guest article by Sam Hadadi

Plastics in Our Oceans

As lovers of all things natural, we’re huge believers in caring for the environment. From recycling to growing our own, eating seasonal produce and even supporting local farmers, we’re all about looking after and protecting our surroundings.

For this reason, everyone at Lucy Bee is passionate about ditching plastics and, right from the start, we’ve sold our lovely coconut oil in glass jars, which are 100% recyclable.

How to choose green tea

You see, while cling film, plastic-packaged foods and carrier bags may seem innocent enough (especially when you can mindlessly toss much of them into the recycling bin), they can kill marine life, ruin our health1, destroy habitats and create mountainous waste sites. Heck, plastics can even damage the health of our children, too2!

Now, there’s even more reason for us to sit up and take notice. A whole new series of studies have shown just how bad plastic is for the world’s oceans – and while this is bad enough in itself, it doesn’t just affect the fish but us too.

How Big is the Plastics Problem?

If you’re still not convinced that you should wave goodbye to plastics, then listen to this – we humans generate more than 300 million tonnes of plastic every single year3. To put that into perspective, that’s the equivalent of the combined body weight of everyone living on the planet.

Isn’t that staggering? Yet if that still doesn’t sound that bad to you, then consider this: nearly half of that plastic only gets used once, before it gets binned and finds its way to the ocean (a shocking 8 million tonnes of plastic gets ditched in the sea each year4). Because of this, nearly every seabird will have plastic in its stomach by 20505, while the world’s oceans will soon contain more plastic than they do fish.

Crab

Terrifying, isn’t it? Yet when you think that those of us who eat plenty of seafood – often assuming we’re making healthier choices – could also be consuming 11,000 particles of plastic per year5, the picture gets a whole lot scarier. Especially when you consider that just 5 per cent of plastics are effectively recycled and the production of plastics could increase by at least 1.12 billion tons by 2050.

How Can Plastics Affect Oceans?

Far too many of us read about the effects plastic has on our environment, yet then forget all about it as we toss yet more packaging in the bin. We’ll see the horrifying pictures of sea turtles or whales washed up on our shores, killed by plastics. And we’ll think, “wow, something needs to be done”, only to forget a few hours later when we go and buy yet more water in plastic bottles.

plastics

However, read this and we’re sure that you’ll think twice about buying anything with plastic in it again…

Over the last few years, scientists have started warning us that plastic in oceans could change the entire ecological system. Miriam Goldstein, a researcher at the University of California, San Diego, carried out a study which revealed just how much plastic could be damaging our beautiful waters6.

According to her study, the plastic problem is becoming worse and worse. In fact, it’s become so bad down below that more and more eggs of certain species are being laid on plastics in the sea, which are then eaten by predators. Although more work needs to be done, scientists believe that this could impact on the marine ecosystem.

Goldstein said: “We found eggs on the pieces of plastic, and these were sea skater eggs. Sea skaters naturally occur in the gyre (a circular pattern of currents in an ocean basin) and are known to lay their eggs on floating objects. So we found that the amount of eggs being laid had increased with the amount of plastic.”

Further studies have revealed that almost 10% of fish caught in the North Pacific had plastic waste in their tummies7 with some scientists even going so far as to predict that marine life could be eating plastic at the eye-watering rate of 12,000 to 24,000 tons per year.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is starting to worry scientists and ecologists. Just one of these, Jeremy Jackson from the Scripps Institute of Oceanology, has said that without huge changes in human behaviour, we will cause a “mass extinction in the oceans with unknown ecological and evolutionary consequences8.”

For many of you, that might sound a little extreme. But as science journalist Alanna Mitchell says: “Every tear you cry … ends up back in the ocean system. Every third molecule of carbon dioxide you exhale is absorbed into the ocean. Every second breath you take comes from the oxygen produced by plankton.”

When you put it like that, you can see just why we need to reevaluate our planet’s growing reliance on plastic.

Why is Plastic So Bad?

One of the biggest problems facing us is that many people don’t realise just how damaging plastic is for the environment. Since it’s possible to throw away our milk cartons or water bottles into the recycling bin, is plastic really such a bad thing?

Milk cartons

Well…yes, even if you ignore just how much energy it takes to produce plastics. For starters, plastic isn’t biodegradable and is only photodegradable. That means it’s decomposed by light but the reality is that most plastic doesn’t completely disappear and essentially becomes long-lasting plastic dust.

What’s more, when items such as carrier bags break down, they release toxins, such as phthalates, BPA and flame-retardants, which then infiltrate into water or soil. As plastics break down, they can also readily absorb dangerous toxins, including pesticides, harming animals and even killing them in the process.

Other problems animals face due to plastic waste especially those nasty plastic bags are suffocation when they ingest it, and strangulation from becoming caught up in it. All sorts of beautiful wildlife, including dolphins, seals, sharks and birds, have been found dead in huge numbers because of our planet’s plastic addiction.

Plastics and Our Health

Of course, the problem with plastics doesn’t just end with our amazing wildlife and oceans – they’re damaging for us humans, too. If you want to find out more about the dangers of plastics, then click here to get the Lucy Bee lowdown.

What Can We Do?

If reading this has made you rethink your plastic addiction, then don’t worry! There are plenty of things you can do to help keep the environment plastic-free, from avoiding processed foods to wearing natural clothing and binning the cling-film for good.

Body Scrub Lavender

I’ll leave you with some food for thought…..How much plastic waste can us humans really create? Should we be looking more closely at scientific evidence of the damage our plastic waste is doing to fish and other marine life and the effect our plastic addiction could have on the world’s oceans if we continue.

Sam Hadadi Signature

  1. Latest Research on BPA Plastic
  2. Plastics:New Health Risk Studies in Children
  3. The Ocean is Choking
  4. Plastic Waste Quantified
  5. What Do We Know?
  6. How Much plastic Can Be Damaging Our Oceans
  7. Studies Showing Plastic Inside Fish Stomachs
  8. Not a Fish Tale

About Lucy Bee Limited 

Lucy Bee is concerned with Fair Trade, ethical and sustainable living, recycling and eating close to nature with additive free products for health.

The views and opinions expressed in videos and articles on the Lucy Bee website/s or social networking sites are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect those of Lucy Bee Limited.

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Sam Hadadi is an ex-BBC journalist and now a freelance writer specialising in fitness and food. Sam is co-founder of a great blog, www.iamintothis.com.