How much plastic have you eaten today?
By Laura Hogg More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the NatuREport Blog Series
Welcome back to NatuREport! This week in the news: a new documentary will show the horror of plastic in our oceans. Think this doesn't affect you? Think again...
Except for the rainbow of color that stretches from left to right, the items look almost like a cluster of broken seashells. Looking closer, the collection resembles a photo from the I Spy books - can you spot the toothbrush? The bottle cap? The Lego?
It would be pretty if its origins weren't so alarming: every single bit of plastic in the photograph was found in the stomach of a dead fledgling albatross.
And documentary filmmaker Craig Leeson intends to do something about it. He's working on a new documentary, with the working title "Away," about the havoc discarded plastic is wreaking on our oceans.
Let's fast forward a bit:
Why should you care?
First of all, the idea that there's a mass of plastic the size of Texas in the North Pacific is just a myth. Good news, right? Well, not quite. Most of the plastic has broken down so much that plankton eaters are mistaking it for a tasty meal. (Industrial waste likes to hitch a ride on these little plastic particles, by the way.) Those little guys are then being eaten by bigger fish, who are eaten by bigger fish, and eventually, that plastic winds up on your plate.
Think of it this way: your last fish dinner may not have been quite so much a nice fresh catch as it was one of those annoying plastic singing bass.
In more serious terms, this has been linked to health conditions in people such as diabetes, immune disruption, and cancer.
So we would all do well to sit up and pay attention to Leeson's message.
It never goes "Away"
This quote from Leeson really hit home for me:
"Every piece of plastic ever made since the fifties exists in some shape or form on the planet. We throw plastic into a bin, it's taken away from us and we never see it again — but it still comes back at us."
Isn't that incredible? It all exists in one form or another. The plastic toy soldier inside the belly of that albatross could be from before my mother was born, for all I know. I wonder how many toy soldiers I've eaten in my lifetime...
I like to think of myself as somewhat of an environmentalist (though I know I could always do better). I recycle. I buy a great deal of my clothing at thrift stores. I know you're supposed to cut up those little plastic things that hold 6-packs together so they don't strangle birds or whatever. But I have to say, I never thought an issue as large as our oceans would hit so close to home.