Plastics have been receiving a bad rap over their use and for good reason.
US researchers have analysed data from 24 expeditions across sub-tropical gyres, coastal Australia, Bay of Bengal and the Mediterranean sea and using oceanographic model predictions, they have estimated that 5 trillion plastics pieces weighing up to 250 000 tons are floating at sea.
Plastic pollution is globally distributed across all oceans because of its buoyancy and durability.
Plastic pieces fragment due to the process of photodegradation and other weathering processes.
Plastics further harm marine life due to ingestion, entanglement and microbial transport.
Some scientists have gone on to claim that synthetic polymers in oceans should be considered as hazardous waste.
The study identifies four classes of plastic pollution – small microplastics (0.33-1.00mm), large microplastics (4.76-200mm), mesoplastics (4.76-200mm) and macroplastics (>200mm).
Foam polystyrene items were the most observed macroplastics while derelict fishing buoys accounted for 58.3% of the total macroplastic weight.
Using an estimated fragmentation rate of 1:16 between macroplastics and mesoplastics, the scientists expected 5.33 x 10^10 mesoplastics within the North Pacific ocean.
The modeled data however showed 13 X 10 ^10 mesoplastic fragments, highlighting that fragmentation rates underestimated the data-calibrated models.
They also observed that the amount of microplastics in the sea was much lower than expected estimates.
The nets that they used to collect plastic debris had a mesh size of 0.33mm. This indicated that there were more factors that accounted for the removal of microplastics – namely UV degradation, biodegradation, ingestion by marine life, sedimentation in waste pools and being washed up on shore.
It also revealed that the rate of ingestion of plastics by marine animals was way higher than estimated.
Smaller organisms ingest microplastics and are in turn consumed by other organisms higher up the food chain.
These organisms may ultimately end up as food on our dinner tables, with microplastics eventually making its way into our bodies.
CALL To ACTION!
STOP POLLUTING SEAS AND OCEANS! SAVE MARINE LIFE!
DO NOT THROW PLASTICS INTO WATER BODIES. RECYCLE THEM !
SAY NO TO PLASTICS!
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