Microplastic emergency

BEACHCLEAN

I recently did a microplastic cleanup outisde of the harbour where I live.

The night before, we had gone there to do static breathhold training, and we were shocked at the amount of small plastic particles and rope fragments in the water. We removed about 100 pieces but there was still so much, I just had to go back the next day, armed with my net and a collection bag.

As it turned out, the tide had deposited most of the microplastic on the pebbly shore, so I started picking up fragments and turned over pebbles to reveal more and more and more.

I spent around an hour on a patch that measured 0.5m by 1.5m, and brought everything home. I left counting it for a day, because I knew it would be a long process.

COUNTING MICROPLASTIC

The following day I started putting the fragments on A3 and A4 paper, counting as I went along.

I counted 664 plastic and rope fragments, and 676 pieces in total. Shocking.

THE BIG QUESTION

So how do these pieces end up in the sea and shore? Well, plastic is light and can blow into the sea, or be bourne along the rivers and drains that drain into the sea.

From there, it breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces due to wave action, sunlight and saltwater.

THE PROBLEM WITH MICROPLASTIC

Unfortunately, animals digest these pieces – either by accident when mistaking these particles for food, or because they actually grow algae on them during their time in the water.

All the turtles brought to the rehab centre in Grau du Roi are tessted and flushed for plastic and they always contain plastic particles.

So why is this a problem? Well, plastic accummulates toxins in the water- it’s a bit like a sponge for diesel and agricultural runoff (phosphates, nitrates etc.). Once an animal digests these pieces, the toxins are absorbed oon a cellular level. There are not that many studies done yet, but it seems that plastic and the associated toxins impair the ability to grow and reproduce.

Also, plastic clogs the digestive system, so the animal effectively starves to death.

None of these are desirable outcomes.

This is why we need to:
– drastically reduce our plastic consumption (food wrappers included)
– continue doing as many beach cleans as possible (and really start paying attention to the microplastic pieces).

TAKEAWAY

Our planet’s wildlife is at risk as a result of plastic consumption. We have the ability to change this by changing our habits and taking the time to pick up trash in all its forms.

I hope I can count on you to join me on this mission. Why not start by taking the Plastic Pledge?

HAVE YOU CHECKED OUT MY LESSON PLAN RESOURCES?