For immediate release
1 August 2019
The Silent Threat of Plastics
Imagine there being more plastic than fish in the ocean. Researchers have predicted that unless we change our behavior, this tragic situation would come true by 2050. Synthetic plastics, those made from fossil fuels, were first invented in early 1900s and by the 1960s they were in popular use. Plastics are strong, flexible and durable, and their usefulness and convenience in various applications, such as food storage, fishing equipment, medical supplies and building materials, has resulted in their widespread use in products worldwide.
In just over 100 years, plastic items and particles have severely polluted our oceans, and have become a global threat to our fish and wildlife. In fact, the United Nations declared plastic pollution as being on a similar scale of environmental threat as climate change.
Nowadays, plastic materials can be found in waters from the Arctic to the Antarctic, along the shores of the remotest islands, in the deepest parts of the ocean, and even inside the human digestive system. All of the plastics ever created, are still around today given the amount of time they take to decompose. A single water bottle may take 400 years to decompose, a straw up to 200 years, while a disposable diaper may take up to 500 years. Fishing line can take up to 600 years, which means that those nets and lines lost in the sea can continue to catch marine life for several centuries.
Many marine species around the world are now known to interact with plastic pollution in a manner that is harmful to them. Fish and wildlife can become entangled in plastics and even mistake them for food, ultimately leading to injury and death. All turtle species have been found with plastics in their guts. Researchers find more and more birds using plastic to build nests, raising their young in a dangerous bed of litter that can entangle the chicks. Seabirds are particularly susceptible to the effects of plastic pollution. Over 200 species of seabirds worldwide have been found to be harmed by plastics in the ocean.
The Grenadines archipelago is not immune to this plastic invasion. Although thousands of tourists visit these islands each year to enjoy pristine beaches and nature, plastic pollution is extensive on our shores and is negatively affecting our fish and wildlife. The shorelines and landscapes of our uninhabited islands, home to tens of thousands of seabirds, are coated with plastics while seabirds sometimes struggle to find nesting space amongst the debris. A study by Saint George’s University found that over 97% of fish intended for human consumption from Grenada waters, such as snapper and tuna, contained plastics. While we want to leave our children and grandchildren with certain gifts of heritage, such as financial and food security, do we really want to leave them with a legacy of plastic pollution?
Luckily, there is hope. With many countries, including Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, beginning to put restrictions on single-use plastics, such as plastic bags and cutlery, we are taking steps towards reducing our impact. Please do your part to reduce your use of plastics, especially single-use, and ensure that litter is disposed of properly. You can even clean up litter you find and, by doing so, help to leave a legacy of caring for our beautiful home.
Pictures: Kate Charles and Juliana Coffey