Entries in #plastic (2)

Monday
Sep112017

How To Keep Up An Ecological Lifestyle  Abroad

You don't necessarily have to live a "zero waste" lifestyle to make a positive impact on your ecological footprint and contribute to conservation efforts. Reducing your plastic use would be a first, very important step to getting there.

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Monday
Feb292016

The Effects of Microbeads On Our Oceans 

How many times a day do you brush your teeth? Or wash your hands with soap? Did you know that every time you brush your teeth you could be washing as many as 100, 000 micro beads into the water system?

Micro beads are tiny plastic particles found in many household products and cosmetics such as toothpaste and face scrubs.  Made of polyethene (a material which does not break down and biodegrade over time) they enter our natural water systems and this is where they will stay in one form or another...

So what’s so bad about micro plastics?

Not only do micro plastics build up in our water systems and ultimately the oceans, they are highly absorbent and can add further pesticides and other chemicals to the marine environment. This poses a problem for any form of life that relies on water…which is to say all life on Earth!  

Being so tiny it is frighteningly easy to imagine how micro beads can be ingested by a variety of species and can build up in the food chain.  These particles and the associated harmful chemicals can even be found in food prepared for human consumption and also in human tissue.  

Most people have heard of marine animals mistakenly eating plastic waste such as carrier bags; in the water they can look like jellyfish to unsuspecting turtles, or ingesting large volumes of plastic debris and fishing equipment which can effectively block their digestion system perhaps preventing them from feeding efficiently or rupturing their stomachs to their extreme injury and sometimes their death. Imagine then the risk of not only ingesting plastics that we can see but also millions of micro beads that are so minute we can’t!

Take for example the short-finned pilot whale, a resident species here in the waters of Tenerife which provides so much joy to many visitors and supports a thriving tourism industry. Their main food sources are cephalopods, such as squid, which in turn are filter feeders.  Filter feeders sort through the water they are swallowing and can extract tiny pelagic species such as zooplankton. If I told you micro beads are approximately the same size as many of these zooplankton organisms can you see where the problems begin?  

Filter feeders cannot filter out all of the micro beads and separate them from the zooplankton.  Later an unsuspecting pilot whale thinks he has found a tasty squid for dinner and will continue to prey on his favourite food throughout his lifetime.  After 10/20/50 years how many micro beads do you think he will have ingested? Is it good for him? As well as affecting the digestive system it is possible the build-up of these particles and chemicals could negatively affect the reproductive and nervous systems too.  

As well as losing individuals and eventually entire populations and species through deaths caused directly by plastic damage, strandings and poisoning, the build-up of micro plastics in their bodies could mean that they cannot reproduce effectively and sustain their populations or ultimately the existence of their species.

The US and Canada have now banned the use of micro beads in cosmetics and several EU countries have lobbied to impose a similar ban throughout the Union but until then what are we going to do?

By Cara Donald - Whale and Dolphin Conservation Project

Are you interested in going on a trip to Tenerife to work on the Whale and Dolphin Conservation project? You can also take a look at our other marine conservation projects here.