The Impact of Plastic Pollution

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This week is National Marine Week, organised by The Wildlife Trust, a celebration of all things marine. This article, one of a series of articles looking at marine issues this week, aims to highlight marine pollution and the devastating threat it poses to the water around the country

National Marine ‘Week’ actually lasts two weeks and a day, to allow for the variation in tide times around the country. Here at theSprout we’ll be taking a look at marine issues all week so keep checking back for more.

Whilst media attention for environmental issues have been largely eclipsed by coronavirus, the pandemic itself also ironically highlighted its significance as industry across the world shuts down decreasing pollution. If you haven’t already been convinced, here are some alarming facts about marine pollution that highlight the extent of the problem.

Plastic pollution is a huge issue

  • It’s estimated that by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of two masses of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean. Researched from The Ocean Cleanup Project claimed that the patch covers 1.6 million square kilometres with a density estimated to vary from 10 to 100 kilograms per square kilometre with an estimated 1.8 trillion individual pieces of rubbish.
  • It’s estimated that plastic accounts for up to 80% of all marine debris studied.
  • There may now be around 5.25 trillion macro and micro plastic pieces floating in the open ocean. Weighing up to 269,000 tonnes.
  • A US Lead team shockingly found substantial amounts of plastic fragments and fibres present in the arctic ice. These levels reached as much as 12000 particles per kilogram of melted ice; ultimately it is unknown how harmful these micro fabrics will both marine and human life.

The impact

  • There are dead zones in the oceans that have been created by pollution making living there impossible for marine or plant life.
  • Recent studies have revealed marine plastic pollution in 100% of marine turtles, 59% of whales, 36% of seals and 40% of seabird species examined.
  • 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and 1 million sea birds are killed by marine plastic pollution annually.
  • Corals that come into contact with plastic have an 89% chance of contracting disease compared to 4% for those that do not.

The situation in Wales

  • Over 60 per cent of the population of wales live and work on the coast. This means that an increase in all types of pollution in the sea will gradually erode the natural beauty of the extensive coastline, similarly rising sea levels attributed to other forms of pollution could eventually displace entire towns due to flooding.
  • The 2017 Great British Beach clean report by the Marine Conservation society found that in Wales alone 677 pieces of litter were collected for every 100m of Welsh beach.
  • The Welsh Government has recognised the need to act against marine pollution with the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act of 2015 addressing to some extent pollution in the seas around Wales. The Welsh government was also the first national government in the world to declare a ‘Climate Emergency’ in April 2019.
  • At 62.8% the Welsh recycling rate is the second highest in the world only beaten by Germany.

You can also help solve this problem simply by being more conscious of your contribution to plastic waste, if you wish to go further than that there are numerous organisations in Wales dedicated to keeping rubbish off beaches and out of the water. With everyone only just being allowed back outside and holidaying abroad being much more difficult perhaps now is the best time to appreciate the natural beauty of the Welsh coast and the wildlife it plays host to.

Related info:

The Wildlife Trust – National Marine Week

theSprout Environment pages

Surprising Creatures Found in Welsh Waters

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