The worlds oceans make up 72% of our planet.
The ocean drives global weather, absorbs the heat from our addiction to burning fossil fuels and provides the main source of protein for over a quarter of the worlds population.
The ocean breathes for the planet, with most photosynthesis occurring on the sea surface more than anywhere else.
The health of our future is dependant on the health of our nation, however silently and out of sight the deep blue is suffering from our contact destruction. Depletion of the worlds fish, polluting it with industrial runoff and plastic pollution and acidification threaten its survival.
Marine litter in particular plastic waste is a global problem. The vast majority of plastic waste is destined for landfill which limits the impact through containment however does not solve the problem. A significant proportion of plastic gets into the water course through bin spill-off, local litter and is then washed through the drains and into the ocean. Global currents push waste around the world and distribute it along all coastlines, populated and remote.
46% of plastics float, according to the EPA and can drift for years, until, not unlike water getting sucked into a sink hole get caught in a circular spin that concentrates waste into large areas in the middle of the oceans that are called “GYRES”.
Wind, wave action and sunlight UV breakdown the plastics during this journey which makes the pieces small and smaller, eventually microscopic, but still plastic. The North pacific Gyre is probably the best known as it is the size of Texas and well documented but others including our own Indian ocean are increasing at alarming rates.
This plastic soup is likely to worsen quickly given the development and populations of India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Thailand however the good news is that we are not impacted by US waste which is probably historically the worst, and importantly plastic bag reduction plans in India, Bangladesh and Thailand are coming into force and are the sharp end of a sustainability sword which have the capacity to reduce waste overflows quickly.
The Bay of Bengal Large Marine Environment project that is highlighted on this site is an important cross border 10 year program that is in year three of coordinating sustainability.
Thailand’s own coastline along the Andaman has low population density and is a manageable aim for all of us at SEEK to be able to be guardians and educators easily across an extremely long coastline.
The fact is, IT DOESN’T MATTER WHERE YOU LIVE, plastic waste is persistent and pervasive, pernicious and persistent. Plastic reaches every part of the planet and we all have a responsibility to resolve the problem by reducing it, recycling it, reusing it.
Plastic is Energy
The production of plastic uses an incredible amount of fossil fuels, with most estimates placing it at an incredible 8% of global oil production, half of which is used in the actual manufacturing! Oil will inevitably become a precious resource and it seems absurd that we simply throw so much away, even the plastics industry view plastic as too valuable to throw away but recycling is still not in plastic users psyche.
The concerns of energy consumption within the industry have prompted growth in the research and development of bioplastics. They already account for 10-15% of the global market however are not the solution. They rely on potential food source crops for their production in the majority of cases and have become synonymous with degradable and biodegradable products – something that is not always the case, many products can take decades to degrade and can release methane gasses that are a significant contributor to global warming.
We need to reduce our usage significantly and look at reuse, redesign, and recycling of products as much as possible.
- Over 250 species have been known to have ingested or become entangles in plastic.
- As much as 8% of some seals and sea lion species have been entangled and
- Over 130,000 cetaceans are caught in nets each year.
- The United Nations Environment Program estimates that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean.
- Over 1,000 species of sea birds are known to ingest plastics
- Research has shown over 95% of Fulmers, a sea bird have plastic in their stomachs that affect them in both chemical and mechanical ways.
- Over 31 species of marine mammals are known to have ingested marine plastic
- Here in Phuket regular deaths of dolphins, turtles, dugongs and whales have been partly attributed to plastic ingestion on autopsy.
Transport of Invasive species
- The huge increase in marine litter is having an unusual ecosystem impact. Plastic hard surfaces are ideal “carriers” for a number of organisms that can have a catastrophic impact on indigenous species. This is called “Biotic Mixing” that is bound to accelerate.
- About half the world’s population lives close to the sea a figure that within 15 years is expected to rise to 75% as climate change impacts the world and interiors become both wetter and more flooded in some areas (Thailand/Cambodia/Vietnam) whilst becoming drier in others (Australia).
- Around 60% of the world’s population gets the majority of its protein from the sea.
- As well as an environmental impact, this plastic is also having a significant economic impact.
- One estimate is that plastic pollution alone could be costing developing and industrialized nations trillions of dollars in lost tourism, depleted fish stocks and unsustainable practices.
- In 2010 the cinque terre region of Italy banned plastic water bottles after it was estimated that 2mn were left behind every year by tourists, With 4mn tourists a year in Phuket, on a 3 day stay if is highly likely at 3 bottles per person per day Phuket already is wasting over 12mn bottles per year.
- About 17mn barrels of oil are used annually to make 50bn water bottles, according to the pacific institute
- There is 158.76 litres per barrel of oil
- X 17mn barrels = 2,698,920,000 litres
- Divided by 50,000,000,000
- =0.0539 litre per plastic water bottle
- Oil costs about US$0.50 per litre or about 3c/1 baht oil per bottle
- Think about that each time you throw one baht away…
In 1989 29,000 bath toys were lost overboard in a shipping accident in the pacific ocean. 15 years later and 17,000 miles of travel the same toys washed up on beaches in the UK…
Think before you throw
- So you know agree, plastic is bad for the oceans, for the air, for our ecosystems and for our wallets but heres the kicker… it has bad health side effects.
- Plastic is full cycle… we saw how it goes from street to ocean, from ocean to ocean getting broken down, from pieces to particles and then ingested by fish, birds and all sea creatures.
- Fisherman collect a school of fish that have been feeding on plastic bits and bring to your local fish market… fresh fish… really?? Onto your loved ones dinner plate. These are called Persistant Organic Pollutants (POPS) which tend to concentrate in fish at far higher levels that are found in the oceans.
Todays Menu: Tomorrows Cancer
Daily Special: “Plastic snapper and shrimp a la plastic”
- THE DEVILS IN THE DETAIL, or in the products “ingredients” .. do you know what you are drinking out of, eating off??
Health issues now become the issue:
Bisphenol A is a key plastic ingredient that is used in all matter of products but is now subject to bans in the use of baby products, particularly baby bottles in much of the US, the EU and now in China and Malaysia and is the start of greater awareness that all plastics and not the same. Studies have shown that ingestion, through drinking or eating tainted plastics can increase the risks of:
- CANCER (wang et al, WWF 1999, Ociepa –Zawal et al 2010, Purdue et al 2009, McGlynn et al 2008
- DIABETES (Ruzzin et al 2010, Lee 2008, Carpenter 2008)
- LOW SPERM COUNT (WWF 1999) , shown to reduce sperm count by as much as 30% and maybe the worlds way of reducing populations?
- ALTERED IMMUNE SYSTEMS (WWF 1999, Hertz Picciotto 2008)
- GENITAL DEFECTS (WWF 1999)
- ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS( Cao et al 2008, Han et al 2010, Goncharrov et al 2009)
- RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS (lee et al 2007)
- ENDOMETRIOSIS (Porpora et al 2009)
- LOW BIRTH WEIGHTS (Murphy et al 2010)
- LOWERED IQ (Jacobsen and Jacobsen 1996, Park et al 2009)
- LOWERED READING AGES (Jacobson and Jaconson 1996)
- AFFECTED SOCIAL SKILLS (Jaconson and Jacobson 1996)
- BEAHAVIOURAL PROBLEMS (WWF 1999)
- MEMORY & ATTENTION PROBLEMS (WWF 1999, Jacobson and Jacobson)
Thanks to Plastic Oceans website for these excellent facts and plastic details, a site promoting the film “Plastic Oceans”
Plastic research shows a very big problem coming with Bisphenol A and F&B containers.
At a minimum first step, baby containers and all products for children under 3 should be banned in Thailand, as they are in much of the world in 2011, a relatively new finding and global action. (See Bisphenol A section on SEEK website)
Global Coastal Cleanup