Small but dangerous

by Clint Krissansen

Small but dangerous – the tiny plastic killing our ocean.

The utilization of plastics over the last few years has increased dramatically due to its cheap and easy usability. Unfortunately, one of man's most prized creations has filled our soil and oceans with microplastics which has a devastating impact on the most precious of ecosystems.

With 8 million tons of plastic dumped in our oceans every year, marine life is swallowing more than ever before. The longer we wait to change our ways, the worse it will get – but we can turn the tide if we listen to those trying to make us change our lives for the better.

What happens when microplastics end up in the ocean?

Small fragments disposed in waterways and the ocean with the dimensions of equal to and smaller than 5 mm, are defined as microplastics, and are highly destructive to the ecosystem which gives us life.

Marine biota (corals, planktons, etc.) consume these tiny plastics. Microplastic is
then transferred along the food chain to bigger marine creatures such as fish, turtles, whales, dolphins - and eventually us.

Coral retains plastic fragments in its abdominal tissue which makes the crucial
process of photosynthesis, slow down -or halt altogether. A lack of healthy coral
reefs in our oceans directly impacts our livelihoods - but coral dying is not the only
issue with microplastics.

Plankton, arguably the most essential component in a marine ecosystem, are
profoundly affected by microplastics. And while there are many types of plankton,
each is affected in equally devastating ways. Planktons of all kinds ingest
microscopic fragments of plastic, from latex beads to polystyrene beads, and
everything in between – which causes a significant reduction in their ability to feed and grow. This has severe consequences along the food chain, with marine animals consuming the plastic-stuffed plankton, or directly swallowing the plastic which they so often mistake for food.

Microplastics have dramatic consequences on all aquatic creatures digestive
systems. Once they consume plastic, it blocks the digestive tracts, diminishes their urge to eat, altering their feeding behaviour- which leads to a reduction in growth and reproduction. Their stomachs stuffed to the brim with plastic, many species wither away and die – directly impacting the population of their species, and every other species on the food chain. Everything is connected, and one marine animals demise hurts the rest.

And for those who consume seafood – what do you think you are eating? If the
animals you eat are eating plastic or planktons filled with microplastic, you end up
ingesting it too. We are yet to know the full effect of consuming the toxic microplastic found in our waterways, but it can't be healthy.

So, what can we do about it?

The most beneficial thing you as an individual can do is avoid purchasing plastic
items, or products with excess plastic packaging. Choose organic materials, glass or metal, over plastic. Another significant improvement you can make for the world is buying garments made out of natural fibres. So, choosing wool or other organic materials over synthetic. Not only will they last longer and feel better - they are overwhelmingly better for the environment. Plastic fragments detach from clothing items in the washing machine and make their way into waterways every time we wash them. By buying organic fibres, you can stop this from happening and support businesses doing the right thing!

Voice your opinions and urge big companies to change their ways, it is possible and down the road will be far more economical. If we all raise our voices, big corporations and the government will have to listen – we have to be persistent
enough. Do something little every day to lessen your negative impact on the
environment and save your money in the long run. Use your money and voice to
support those doing the right thing for the environment. By doing this, you will show others that there is a way forward that does not include the destructive material that is plastic.

Marine ecosystems are a precious thing, and every organism plays an important role – one cannot live without the other, and we are included in that too. We are part of that food chain, and by destroying the oceans with plastic, we are effectively destroying ourselves.