The Indigestible Truth

By Keziah Rookes

The past 50 years have seen the Baltic sea launched in to a fragile state, with locals distressed over the drastic changes occurring. A local man stated ‘The sand that we used to see has now disappeared into the water and reeds have appeared covering the islands’. This is among many challenges facing the Baltic, its inhabitants and its residents.

Localized improvements have seen many pollutants be diminished from these waters, with St. Petersburg pioneering a shift in waste reduction. However, the world’s population is growing at an exponential rate, and with that comes waste disposal.

So, what’s new? Well the answer to that is Microplastics. In an article by YLE (2013) it is stated that micro plastics are the new threat to the world’s oceans. Microplastics are quite literally described in the name; they are micro pieces of plastic that are being dispersed into the sea all over the globe. But how did they get there? and who’s to blame?

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Microscopic Image showing Microplastics (www.patagonia.com)

 

There is not a singular point of origin to these plastics; as the global population grows so does the growth of innovation and production and therefore usage. Microplastics seen in the Baltic sea vary- from the wear from car tyres to the clothing fibres that travel from your washing machine the whole way to ocean. A huge discovery was found this year in the sheer amount of Microplastics within facial scrubs and cosmetics that were revealed to have been released in the ocean.

So why is something micro such a big deal? In a Guardian article, journalist Amy DuFault (2014) considers the concern over the mass production of these products and the impact and stress they cause for sustainable oceans. For humans, the damage it can cause to the population may seem distant but as fish consume these plastics, the population consumes mass amounts of fish. This ripple effect in the food chain might be hard to digest!

But this isn’t just about humans. As these Microbeads flow through the oceans absorbing dangerous toxins before they even enter the food chain, we must also consider the effect on the oceans inhabitants; statistics from the World Economic Forum have predicted that ‘In 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea’.

But surely there is a solution? Cosmetic Developers and sustainable pioneers across the world are trying to come together to create natural alternatives such as using seeds from fruits such as raspberries and jojoba beads. However, even this momentum is being halted by researchers, stating that a current problem in algae growth settling at the bottom of the ocean and causing a greater consumption of oxygen will be made worse by the addition of natural sugars and nut shells.

So now the question to be left open for thoughts, is what cost does the environment deserve to pay for our mass consumption?

 

References:

Baltic, M. (2013). Microplastics – the latest threat to the Baltic. [online] Yle Uutiset. Available at: https://yle.fi/uutiset/osasto/news/microplastics_-_the_latest_threat_to_the_baltic/6757738 [Accessed 13 Jul. 2017].

DeFault, A. (2014). The microbead battle and the search for a greener replacement. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/microbeads-cosmetics-gyres-plastics-pollution-makeup [Accessed 13 Jul. 2017].

Patagonia.com. (2016). Hang Tight! Routing to checkout…. [online] Available at: http://www.patagonia.com/blog/2016/06/what-do-we-know-about-tiny-plastic-fibers-in-the-ocean/ [Accessed 13 Jul. 2017].

 

 

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