Plastic litter remains one of the biggest problems facing the world’s seas, along with rising sea levels, climate change, and human-made chemical pollution.
Thirty-two countries have so far banned at least some single-use plastics, with many more provinces, states and cities around the world imposing or considering bans of their own on things like grocery bags and straws.
Recently, Canada announced that it will apply a science-based approach to determine what single-use plastics it will outlaw, beginning as early as 2021.
“A real solution needs to be nationwide – we need to cover all of Canada with this decision – and that’s why the federal government is moving forward on a science-based approach to establishing which harmful single-use plastics we will be eliminating as of 2021,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Indeed, we are surrounded by plastic. Think about every piece we use in a single day – grocery bags, food containers, coffee cup lids, drink bottles, straws for juice boxes. The list goes on and on.
Plastic usage may be convenient, but it comes at a steep price!
In the first decade of this century, we made more plastic than all the plastic in history up to the year 2000. And every year, huge quantities of plastic end up in the world’s oceans.
Plastics pollution has a direct and deadly effect on wildlife, experts have cautioned.
Concern only mounts about what many see as a plastics crisis with every image of a bird, turtle or fish entangled in a grocery bag or an otherwise picturesque beach or waterway strewn with plastic trash. Whales are washing up with loads of plastic in their stomachs.
The United Nations Environment Programme has estimated that if current pollution rates continue, it will mean more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050.
The amount of plastic in the oceans could triple by 2025, according to a 2018 UK government report on the future of the seas. Considering there’s already over 5.25tn pieces of plastic trash in the world’s oceans, this is pretty bad news.
The report warns that the current health of the oceans could have some damning implications for biodiversity. It noted there was already a 49% decline in marine vertebrate populations between 1970 and 2012.
Due to its low density, plastic waste is readily transported long distances from source areas and concentrates in gyres, systems of rotating ocean currents. All five of the earth’s major ocean gyres are inundated with plastic pollution.
But it’s not limited to the gyres; studies estimate there are 15-51tn pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans — from the equator to the poles, from Arctic ice sheets to the sea floor.
For years, concern around plastics centred on lightweight plastic grocery bags. According to a United Nations report, some 127 countries had implemented some type of restriction on plastic bags as of July 2018.
It is heartening to note that governments, industry, and the public across the globe are waking up to the grim reality that’s facing our oceans.
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