Once in a while, we like to take a virtual trip around the world to check in on some of the stories related to the ocean plastic crisis that are making news. This can be anything from research that shows how pervasive the problem is, to new ways of thinking about the plastic cycle, or some of the negative impacts ocean plastic pollution is having on species and habitats. Also, wherever we can, we like to recognize people or organizations making positive progress in the effort to curb the plastic pollution problem for future generations.
These stories are ripped from the headlines and just waiting for us to take a closer look. Let's go!
Plastic gets to the oceans through over 1,000 rivers
“Scientists used to think 20 rivers at most carried most plastic into the oceans, but now they know it’s far more, complicating potential solutions.
“Rivers are the primary conduits for plastic waste to the seas. In 2017, two separate groups of scientists concluded that 90 percent of river-borne plastic waste that flushes into the oceans is conveyed by just a handful of large, continental rivers, including the Nile, Amazon, and Yangtze, the world’s three longest rivers. Cleaning up those rivers—10 rivers were named in one study and 20 in the other—could go a long way toward solving the problem, experts agreed.
“New research published today in Science Advances has turned that thinking on its head. Scientists found that 80 percent of plastic waste is distributed by more than 1,000 rivers, not simply 10 or 20. They also found that most of that waste is carried by small rivers that flow through densely populated urban areas, not the largest rivers.”
Plastics and toxic chemicals are killing fish — and poisoning us
Canada’s National Observer
“Plastic, pesticides and other toxic substances are devastating the world’s fish and marine animals, according to a report released Tuesday.
“The study, which was not peer-reviewed, was published by the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), a global coalition of environmental organizations. It reviewed academic research conducted worldwide on the impacts of plastic and toxic chemicals, and is the first systematic review of these dispersed studies designed to paint a global picture of the problem.
“The findings were dire: Pollution is compromising the world’s oceans, fisheries and coastal communities while exacerbating the impacts of climate change and overfishing.”
California’s legacy of DDT waste: underwater dump site uncovers a toxic history
“The discovery of tens of thousands of underwater barrels containing what scientists believe to be chemical waste has raised alarm and reopened scrutiny into a history of toxic dumping that persisted off the California coast into the 1970s.
“A team of scientists announced this week that they had found more than 25,000 containers, many of which they believe to be DDT waste, which has been linked to cancer and disease in humans and mass die-off events in the natural world. The barrels cover a seafloor area double the size of Manhattan off the coast of the Santa Catalina Island, near Los Angeles.
“Scientists ... expressed shock at the extent of the dump ground. And hopes about the innovative technology used to map out the area is tempered by looming questions about what to do about the waste – not just off the coast of Los Angeles, but in sea waters across the country that various industries treated as a cheap alternative to landfills for decades.”
Regulators missing pollution’s effect on marine life, study finds
“Increasing chemical and plastic pollution are ‘significant’ contributors to the decline of fish and other aquatic organisms, yet their impact is being missed by regulators, according to a report by environmentalists.
“The report, Aquatic Pollutants in Oceans and Fisheries, by the International Pollutants Elimination Network and the National Toxics Network, draws together scientific research on how pollution is adversely affecting the aquatic food chain. It catalogues the ‘serious impacts’ of ‘invisible killers’ such as persistent organic pollutants and excessive nutrients on the immunity, fertility, development and survival of aquatic animals.
“In it, scientists argue the regulation of fisheries does not always take into account biologically or scientifically relevant data on all contributors to the health of fish populations, leading to a ‘narrow view’ of declining numbers based on quota catch rates and efforts. ‘Regulators have yet to grasp the impact of pollution,’ the report says.”
Magnets, vacuums, and tiny nets: the new fight against microplastics
“All plastic waste, regardless of size, is detrimental to the environment, but microplastics pose a special challenge given their minuscule size (some are 150 times smaller than a human hair) and ability to enter the food chain. The result is that chemical additives and all end up in the flesh and organs of fish and humans. While the World Health Organization’s stance is that ingesting microplastics poses no known threat to human health, not everyone agrees.
“‘I think we know enough today to worry about it,’ says Dr Douglas Rader, chief oceans scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, pointing out that many microplastics contain chemicals linked to reproductive and hormonal disruption and cancer.
“But it’s not all bad news. Some are now innovating in microplastic extraction, providing the basis for a touch of cautious optimism. Here is a look at several examples.”
How to help: Take steps to reduce your plastic footprint
Plastic pollution is a complex issue and there is no one single action that’s going to change the tide. Ending this global crisis will require lots of small actions from lots of people every single day.
Every time you shop 4ocean, you’re investing in the future of our planet by funding the removal of trash that’s already polluting our oceans, rivers, and coastlines, while supporting the research, innovation, technology, advocacy, and education initiatives we invest in to help prevent more plastic from entering our oceans.
Small acts add up, which means every piece of single-use plastic you refuse, every habit you change, and every pound you pull makes a difference.