Chances are that if you consume seafood, your next fish filet is likely coming with a nice side of plastic. Well, actually, it’s worse than that – the plastic might be in the fish itself, because marine animals are consuming the very trash we dump in the ocean. In other words, one way or another, we’re essentially consuming the 8.8 million tons of plastic bottles, bags, food packages, and single-use drinking straws that make their way from landfill to ocean every single year. So as some sort of karmic revenge for our reckless plastic habits, we, too, are now ingesting it, via the fish.
A recent study conducted by researchers at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology revealed that 80 percent of the anchovies found in the Tokyo bay had microplastics, bits of plastic between 0.1 and one millimeter in size, in their digestive system. After the team examined 64 Japanese anchovies, they found 150 micro-plastic particles in the digestive tubes of 49 of them.
While scientists don’t seem to think that consuming plastic through fish is necessarily dangerous for people, we can’t ignore the sheer volume of tiny plastics that the average seafood eater consumes. And if you don’t like anchovies, you’re not off the hook. Love shellfish? Well, some studies estimate that people who eat shellfish can consume up to 11,000 pieces of microplastic a year. These microplastic particles come from waste such as plastic bags and plastic containers that are broken down by ocean waves and UV light. But the plastic doesn’t stop just at bags and bottles – fish are also ingesting microbeads that come from face wash, cosmetics, and toothpaste. And even the microfibers from our synthetic clothing are to blame! It’s little known that every time a single piece of synthetic clothing is washed, it releases 1,900 plastic microfibers into the water. Because the fibers and other microplastics are too small to be filtered out of the water, they end up washed out to sea, and are easily ingested by marine life.
But that’s not where the damaging potential of plastics ends. This material acts as a pollution sponge, able to transfer harmful chemicals from the marine environment to fish who consume them. For example, one of the researchers, Professor Hideshige Takada, said that microplastic litter absorbs hazardous chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyl. Some plastics contain BPA, which can act as an endocrine disruptor in the human body. Phthalates, another toxin often found in plastics, have been shown to harm developing fetuses at certain levels. Bet they don’t list that on the sushi menu!
To avoid these toxic tastes, your best bet is eliminating fish from your diet. But the plastic isn’t only harming humans, we’re currently also endangering around 700 marine species, who are faced with extinction due to the threat plastic poses to them from entanglement, pollution, and ingestion. This means we’ve got to do everything to not only remove plastic from our own diets but also from the diets of marine life as well.
So, What Can You Do?
The good news is, we know exactly where all the plastic that is cluttering our oceans is coming from, us. That means that we all have the power to reduce plastic consumption and stop pollution right at the source. If we all make an effort to identify where we use plastic and actively look for alternatives, we can drastically cut down on the amount of plastic pollution that finds its way into the oceans.
As the leading organization at the forefront of the conscious consumerism movement, One Green Planet believes that reducing everyday plastics from our lives is not about giving up anything or sacrificing convenience, but rather learning to reap the maximum benefit from the items you use every day while having the minimum impact.
Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.
Image Source: Steven Guerrisi/Flickr