You might often hear that plastic pollution is the biggest threat to marine life. But in reality, that is not true. Pollution from overfishing, oil spills, and other human activities also contribute to the destruction of our oceans.
Plastic becomes a pollutant as a result of how it is discarded and, hence, ends up harming our marine ecosystems.
So are all plastic and microplastics a threat to marine life?
Well, not all plastics are harmful to marine animals. While large pieces of plastic can trap, injure, or even kill marine life, tiny microplastics are generally not dangerous to them. In most cases, the microplastics are not ingested by the animals and simply pass through their digestive systems.
Currently, there are no solid studies that talk about what effect microplastics have on marine animals. With the sensationalization of plastic pollution, prominent contributors that negatively affect the ecosystem are overlooked.
Here are some sources that are major contributors of pollution killing marine life:
- Oil and chemical spills:
Oil and chemical spills are one of the most common sources of pollution in marine life, as they directly and immediately impact the habitat of aquatic life. One major spill can lead to the extinction of several marine species.
Sewage from land-based sources contains bacteria and other pollutants that are toxic to marine life. It comes from sinks, showers, and toilets, as well as commercial, industrial, and agricultural activities. More than 80 percent of the world’s wastewater flows back into the environment without being treated or reused.
- Marine debris:
Marine debris is litter that ends up in oceans, seas, or other water bodies. This man-made debris gets into the water in many possible ways. For example, people often leave trash on beaches or throw it into the water from boats or offshore facilities, such as plastic bottles, nets, etc.
- Acid rain:
Acid rain is affecting the near-shore and coastal oceans to a great degree. The release of gases such as Sulphur Dioxide and Nitrogen Oxide into the atmosphere by power plants, cement plants, furnace, ceramic industries, and agricultural activities is commonly referred to as “acid rain,” although it plays a minor role in making the water bodies more acidic on a global scale. Yet, the impact is greatly amplified in the shallower waters of the coastal oceans.
- Ship noise:
Ship noise can greatly impact the marine environment since it can be heard over a vast area, making it difficult for fish and whales to hear their prey or predators, find their paths, or connect with mates, group members, or their young. This leads to the extinction of various marine species.
Overfishing along with bycatch, is one of the major threats to marine life as it causes the unnecessary loss of massive fish populations along with other marine animals like marine turtles, seabirds, etc.
- Destructive fishing practices:
The advancement in commercial fishing technology and gear has given humans the ability to wipe out entire fish populations in a very short period of time. Currently, we are facing a crisis where 80% of our fisheries are either fully exploited or collapsing because of our destructive fishing practices.
- Mining waste:
Water pollution is primarily associated with mining operations, as mining threatens all kinds of waterways, from rivers, oceans, and lakes to drinking water supplies. This affects marine life and their livelihood.
- Climate change:
As excessive heat and energy warm the ocean, the difference in temperature leads to unparalleled cascading effects, including ice melting, sea-level rise, marine heat waves, and ocean acidification.
- Plastic pollution:
It is estimated that 80% of plastic pollution in the ocean comes from land-based sources, including inadequate waste management and poor litter disposal. Due to this, a lot of plastic debris gets collected in the ocean. This can have serious consequences for marine life. It can range from physical entanglement and ingestion to chemical contamination.
Tackling Marine Pollution- What can we do?
With the right intention, we can tackle marine pollution in the following way:
- Putting the three Rs—Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle—into practice. Reusing and recycling products can help cut down on waste production.
- When visiting a beach or other coastal region, we should before be cautious and mindful of marine life.
- We should not leave trash around, especially on beaches or along the shores, as this suffocates marine life. Throw your trash in the dustbin, from where it can be disposed responsibly.
- When we are planning to swim in water bodies, we should not apply creams with harmful chemicals.
- We should reduce the use of things that come in a lot of unnecessary plastic packaging. You might choose an alternative, eco-friendly option.
- We should use chemical-free organic fertilizers in our kitchen garden instead of synthetic ones.
- Make sure to dispose of trash correctly so it can be taken to recycling facilities and kept out of the oceans and seas.
- We should be aware and raise awareness. Talk to your parents, friends, and family about the impacts of plastic and chemical-filled products on marine life.
Step in the right direction:
Recycling plastic is a step in the right direction and can help reduce the amount of plastic entering the ocean, but more is needed. Only 9% of all plastic has been recycled since the 1950s, with the rest ending up in landfills, oceans, or the environment. We must move beyond recycling to a more holistic approach, like investing in waste management systems and advocating for environmental policies that promote sustainable production and consumption.
One such product that encourages sustainability and easily dissolves in the soil is BioX, which is a biodegradable additive for plastics. It works by accelerating the breakdown of polyolefins in the presence of sunlight, making plastic disposal simple and environmentally friendly. It is effective at low concentrations, compatible with most polymers, non-toxic, safe for humans, and RoHS-compliant. The plastic degrades its carbon dioxide and water as exactly how vegetable/animal fats disappear in nature.
The solution to a sustainable future is not discarding the use of plastic but finding alternatives to its degradation and recycling it. With the proper management of plastic and modern innovation, we can keep plastic and other pollution outside of the oceans and degrade them on land.
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