(OCEANS/ANIMAL SCIENCE) Scientists have found that 50 percent of all sea turtles are ingesting plastic, and this number is only increasing as plastic pollution continues to surge. “These patches are not going away,” says lead author Erik van Sebille, an oceanographer at the University of New South Wales. “The garbage patches will stay there for at least the next thousand years.” Studies show this problem is not only prominent in heavily populated areas like New York City, but also in places like Brazil. Continue reading for more information on how plastic waste is becoming a global issue, and consider these tips on reducing your own plastic consumption. — Global Animal
Inhabitat, Taz Loomans
Green turtles are already endangered, and their lot seems to be getting worse.
A new study conducted by the University of Queensland and published in the journal Conservation Biology shows that green turtles are significantly more likely to swallow plastic today than they were in the 1980s. The study found that the likelihood of a green turtle ingesting man-made trash jumped from about 30% to nearly 50% in 2012.
It also confirmed that six of the world’s seven species of sea turtles have been found to ingest debris, and all six are listed as globally vulnerable and endangered.
Plastic can be lethal to the turtles who ingest it – the debris can block their stomachs and starve them, or it can puncture their intestinal systems. Plastic can also release toxins when ingested. These chemicals may be already present in the plastics, or absorbed by the plastic while it is floating in the ocean. Qamar Schuyler, who headed the study, says “the animal may not die of that right away, but it may impact things like their reproductive cycle – and that has longer term consequences.”
Oddly, the study showed that turtles washing up with lots of plastic in their system were not more prevalent in populated areas than they were in other areas of the world. For example, stranded turtles found adjacent to heavily populated New York City showed little or no evidence of debris ingestion, while all of the stranded turtles found near an undeveloped area of southern Brazil had eaten debris. This means that the problem isn’t just a matter of local shore clean up – it requires a global solution.
“Our results show clearly that debris ingestion by sea turtles is a global phenomenon of increasing magnitude,” says the report.
Also check out these tips on reducing plastic use, provided by Green Education Foundation:
- Stop using plastic straws, even in restaurants. If a straw is a must, purchase a reusable stainless steel or glass straw
- Use a reusable produce bag. A single plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade. Purchase or make your own reusable produce bag and be sure to wash them often!
- Give up gum. Gum is made of a synthetic rubber, aka plastic.
- Buy boxes instead of bottles. Often, products like laundry detergent come in cardboard which is more easily recycled than plastic.
- Purchase food, like cereal, pasta, and rice from bulk bins and fill a reusable bag or container. You save money and unnecessary packaging.
- Reuse containers for storing leftovers or shopping in bulk.
- Use a reusable bottle or mug for your beverages, even when ordering from a to-go shop
- Bring your own container for take-out or your restaurant doggy-bag since many restaurants use styrofoam.
- Use matches instead of disposable plastic lighters or invest in a refillable metal lighter.
- Avoid buying frozen foods because their packaging is mostly plastic. Even those that appear to be cardboard are coated in a thin layer of plastic. Plus you’ll be eating fewer processed foods!
- Don’t use plasticware at home and be sure to request restaurants do not pack them in your take-out box.
- Ask your local grocer to take your plastic containers (for berries, tomatoes, etc.) back. If you shop at a farmers market they can refill it for you.
- The EPA estimates that 7.6 billion pounds of disposable diapers are discarded in the US each year. Use cloth diapers to reduce your baby’s carbon footprint and save money.
- Make fresh squeezed juice or eat fruit instead of buying juice in plastic bottles. It’s healthier and better for the environment.
- Make your own cleaning products that will be less toxic and eliminate the need for multiple plastic bottles of cleaner.
- Pack your lunch in reusable containers and bags. Also, opt for fresh fruits and veggies and bulk items instead of products that come in single serving cups.
- Use a razor with replaceable blades instead of a disposable razor