Greenkode takes a look at the different research being conducted on plastic pollution around the world.
by Blue Fletcher/27th-June-2020
For many years now, we have been increasingly aware of plastic pollution’s effects, hence why I was so shocked to find a host stories on Sky News reporting new-found studies on its negative development. With things looking gloomy for this environmental issue, it is essential to keep informed within the current climate.
Unfortunately, alongside the pandemic comes a rapid demand for single use plastic packaging.
This is likely to result in implications that could last years, putting our environment in a progressively critical situation. It is now more important than ever to reduce this stress on our planet, the first minor changes involve staying aware and educated on the matter and maintaining an environmentally friendly outlook. From this blog I hope to support both of those initiatives, firstly spreading awareness of current issues and secondly to gain an insight into innovative methods for tackling plastic pollution.
A first of its kind, a scientific study has been carried out on the River Nile, to evaluate the condition of the waters and surrounding environment. Dr Farhan Khan and his team discovered that a staggering three quarters of the fish analysed contained microplastics.
Kings College University carried out a study to identify where microplastics stem from – the data suggests from a variety of products. Among the initial materials were thin films, single use plastics and polystyrene. Levels of microplastics were higher in London compared to Dongguan, China and Paris, France and Hamburg, Germany.However a whopping 92% of plastics found were fibrous microplastics, created when synthetic textiles are broken down and released – usually in washing machines.
Due to the Niles religious significance the study was extremely secretive, as it is heavily frowned upon to question the waters cleanliness. Because of this many people have previously faced serious punishment from the authorities – the harshest being jail time. This suggests why the Nile has never been investigated as a dominant location for plastic pollution. However, it is now critical to develop this knowledge further, putting the focus on how the contaminated fish will affect the millions of people feeding on them.
In the two months Sky News spent travelling along the Nile, they gathered statements from many of the local farmers, experts, fishermen and scientists. Many of them feared for the younger generations as the plastic is killing the waterways that they rely on day-in-day-out. In the meantime, the River Nile will remain flooded with plastic, transporting it downstream to the Mediterranean Sea until we are able to make a collaborative effort eliminate microplastics
Images of the River Nile Canals : Filled with massive amounts of plastic waste debris and a collection of the type of plastics being thrown into the canals.
Scottish Highland Seabirds
In an uninhabited island off the west coast of Scotland, it has been found that almost four in ten seabird nests have been tarnished by plastic pollution.
However, the European Shags have been affected the most, as four out of five bird nests were contaminated. This is due to the birds breeding routines, in which the Shags reuse their nests for consecutive seasons. The research suggests that the debris originates from consumer waste that is washed to the islands shore, then collected by birds and incorporated into their nests. Sadly, this plastic can harm the baby chicks, causing them to get tangled and die.
To gain an insight on the bird’s behaviours the researchers mapped out the contaminated nests to determine the plastics distribution. They found that nests on the northern coast, which are closer to the outgoing tide, were more likely to be contaminated. This supports the researcher’s theory that the plastic originates from the mainland.
Shad bird and a nest filled with plastics
A plastics durability is the leading benefit that makes it so attractive to humans, however this becomes a major hinderance for our environment. As previously mentioned, microplastics are extremely harmful to our planet due to their small size and weight. They disperse throughout our ecosystems by our weather systems, and it has now been recorded that plastics are even falling from the sky.
A research team from Utah University carried out a study to determine how much plastic rain is continuing to fall and where.
They found that 1000 tonnes of plastic fall in protected areas each year, this refers to sites such as the Grand Canyon and Joshua Tree National Park.
This ridiculously high volume converts to a staggering 182 million plastic bags. The research team were astonished by the results as 4% of all identifiable dust particles found were plastic. The research team found it difficult to comprehend the scale of this issue, they were convinced an error was made throughout the calculations.
“We were shocked at the estimated deposition rates and kept trying to figure out where our calculations went wrong,” said lead scientist, Professor Janice Brahney.
What can we do about it?
To take this deteriorating issue and put a positive spin on it, I have suggested two ways in which to make a positive impact through small alterations in our daily lives. To fight plastic pollution we must collectively adjust – whether its buying innovative products that prevent these microplastics from reaching our ecosystems, or completely eradicating the use of plastic within our homes.
Without us knowing, a large majority of our clothing is made from synthetic materials. Rachel Miller is the co-founder of the ocean conservation group – Rozilia Project.
She has created an impressive microfiber catcher designed for washing machines, preventing the fibres from ever reaching our waterways in the first place. And the best part is that they safely dispose of all microplastics once you are done using it.
If you’re looking to develop a sustainable home I would highly suggest looking at Plastic Freedom.
It all started with a small blog, where founder Beth Noy vowed to never buy a plastic bottle again. Plastic Freedom encourages people to make the switch to a plastic free lifestyle, making it as easy as possible for the consumers. They now sell over 1000 plastic-free alternatives ranging from beauty products to kitchen essentials, all available online.
With products like these available, it makes the transfer to sustainability a little bit smoother. Although we still face many hurdles it is essential to take a step in the right direction – even if this involves sacrificing the most efficient routine.