Plastic products in the environment that adversely affects wildlife, wildlife habitat and humans.
Durable and Persistent
The two properties of plastic which make it so useful to humans, are the properties which pose the highest risk to marine life.
WRITTEN IN THE GEOLOGICAL RECORD
Is it time for a new geological epoch? Human impact on the earth has been so profound that some believe a new geological epoch needs to be declared. The Anthropocene.
Plastic plays as one of the key candidates as evidence for the onset of the Anthropocene, along with increases in carbon dioxide and methane.
Check out the paper here
As a material it is incredibly valuable - plastic is described as the workhorse of the economy...
It is durable, flexible and persistent, which is art of its success, but also part of its problem, we do not give it the value that it should have.
However, plastic has an identity which is built on disposability and throw-away it is hard to change - our relationship with plastic has been built over 60 years and that behavioural training is hard to throw away.
Plastics play a vital role in our lives: they combine low cost with high versatility and functionality – for example as packaging to contain and protect perishable or valuable products.
This 1955 life magazine article demonstrates our relationship with single-use plastic in the 1950’s.
60 years of research and development
60 years of behavioural training – to throw away
Chocking the oceans?
Plastic pollution is now recognised as a pervasive pollutant in both freshwater and marine aquatic systems; estimates suggest that plastic accounts for 73% of marine litter globally.
In marine environments, polymers persist for hundreds to thousands of years.
The global production of plastics is following a clear exponential trend, which began in the 1950s, and is projected to reach 1800 million tonnes in 2050.
How Plastic Pollution Affects Marine Ecosystems
When animals encounter a novel stimulus, such as plastic pollution, they often become entangled. It may cause injury, distress and in serious cases, death. Iconic species such as reindeer, often get entangled in discarded fishing gear.
If animals consume plastic it can have serious consequences on their digestive processes and natural behaviours. Some animals have been found to preferentially eat plastic, due to the smell it gives off when its decomposing.
Toxic compounds from plastics have been found to accumulate in the tissues of animals such as fish and polar bears. This can have serious consequences for reproduction and fitness in marine animals.