A new study has confirmed what many have suspected all along: plastic is a global threat to wildlife. Plastic contamination of the sea was previously believed to be the result of just local pollution. However, research from the Biological Oceanography Institute (BOI) at the University of British Columbia backs this up. The research not only confirms that plastic contamination is a global problem but also points the finger directly at chemical industries. This global problem is threatening to wreak havoc on coral reefs and marine ecosystems and has the potential to destabilize ecosystems.
Over five thousand years ago, the ancestors of modern humans first used resin and other synthetic materials to create items such as pottery. Plastics were not widely used until the late 20th century. As people began to realize how widespread and destructive these plastics could be eco-friendly alternatives began to take a large share of the market. Today, many of these recycled products can be found lining the shelves of traditional stores.
Unfortunately, the use of plastic continues today largely unchecked. Because plastic is flexible and lightweight, many different kinds of chemicals and pollutants can be transferred from plastic to a variety of marine life in the water. Different kinds of pollutants are known to have produced different kinds of changes in marine ecosystems. The latest research confirms that these various pollutants form a complex cocktail that can disrupt the natural balance of chemicals and ecosystems, resulting in “sludge” that pollutes the ocean’s bottom and surface layers and interferes with the natural distribution of nutrients.
This threat was first recognized more than two decades ago. Thanks to advances in scientific research, a growing number of scientists have been able to document the damage plastics have on marine ecosystems. This research has enabled divers to document the prevalence of different plastics throughout the world’s oceans. Thanks to the study, divers are now able to accurately assess the level of threat plastics pose to both the marine ecosystem and the global food chain.
This study compared two specific types of plastic to identify how their chemical makeup affected ocean currents. The study looked at PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and TD (trihalomethane). These two plastics typically have very different compositions. However, they both eventually make up a large proportion of the waste in our lakes and our oceans, which means that plastic pollution is a significant issue.
One of the reasons this study confirms the global threat of plastic pollution is that it provides real insight into the rate and type of pollution occurring. Researchers were able to monitor the plastic contamination over a period of 10 years using advanced remote-sensing equipment. They were also able to analyze the rate of plastics entering the water column and the composition of different plastics. In addition, they were able to monitor the rate of plastics entering the soil of the ocean.
Plastic pollution poses a great global threat because aside from the fact that it degrades ecosystems, it also reduces the efficiency with which the planet absorbs heat. This means that, even if the plastic does not break down, it will release heat into the environment as it floats on the ocean currents. When the thermal mass of the ocean is exposed to increasing amounts of plastic, the process of global warming is likely to accelerate. And, worse, the increased surface tension of the ocean will lead to more hurricanes, which tend to worsen the problem.
The threat presented by plastic pollution can no longer be ignored. It is a clear and undeniable sign that something must be done to curb the damage plastic has already caused to our ocean and our environment. The next step is for us to turn our backs on plastic and embrace more natural materials. This would reduce plastic consumption greatly while preserving the natural state of the ocean and the environment. It is time to make our own choice and bring back the responsible plastic lifestyle!