In a perfect world, loggerhead turtles would be munching away on shellfish, horseshoe crabs, clams, and mussels.
Alas, our world is far from perfect.
Instead, loggerhead turtles are chowing down on a toxic dish of plastic … with a side of plastic. In a recent study published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin, scientists found that a whopping 60 percent of loggerhead turtles in South Africa have plastic in their stomachs. Twenty-four out of 40 loggerhead turtles died within two months of stranding, 16 of whom had ingested plastic. Cause of death? Plastic blocking digestive tracts or bladders.
According to research by Plastics South Africa, as many as 400 items per square metre line the beaches of South Africa, with plastic accounting for well over 90 percent of beach litter. Plastic packaging was the number one culprit.
From plastic packaging to plastic bags – and way beyond – 300 million tons of plastic materials come into circulation every year. And despite genuine efforts to recycle, 85 percent of the world’s plastic is not recycled. As we can see from this study, it instead makes its way to the oceans, putting around 700 marine species, like the loggerhead turtle, in danger of extinction, due to the threat plastic poses to them from entanglement, pollution, and ingestion. If things go on business as usual, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.
But University of Cape Town scientist Peter Ryan, who specializes in marine litter, remains optimistic. “It’s a question of making sure that we dispose of plastic properly and working towards making sure there is a value attached to waste plastic‚” he said. “It’s a completely solvable problem.”
We agree with Ryan – but it’s only solvable if we make changes in our everyday life.
So, What Can You Do?
While efforts are being made to remove debris from the oceans, improve recycling systems, and innovate barriers to prevent plastic from getting into waterways, we can all take action in our daily lives to stop plastic waste at the source.
“Plastic is ubiquitous in modern society and seemingly unavoidable. But is it worth risking the lives of marine species, the health of the oceans and our own future in the name of convenience? By taking steps to minimize everyday plastics in our lives, we can crush plastic at the source and give marine life a fighting chance,” said Nil Zacharias, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of One Green Planet.
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: Wikimedia Commons