Earthzine announces Plastics theme for first quarter of 2020

Hari VishnuEditorial, Plastics

Plastics theme announced for first quarter 2020

In the first quarter of 2020, Earthzine will focus on a Plastics theme to throw light on this growing environmental issue

January 23rd, 2020

Hari Vishnu, Editor, Earthzine

One of the biggest environmental issues that has faced the Blue Planet in the last decade has been that of plastic pollution. This problem is growing to unsurmountable levels and has been getting increasingly more attention in recent years.

It is estimated that 1.15 to 2.41 million tonnes of plastic are entering the ocean each year from rivers [1]. Plastics are non-biodegradable and can remain in the environment for decades, forming large garbage patches such as the Great pacific garbage patch that covers an estimated 1.6 million square kilometers, twice the size of Texas [1] ! They have been interfering with the food systems of marine fauna, often choking animals who chance upon them and ingest them. Whale beachings are often followed by reports on the amount of plastics found in the belly of these animals [2]. About 700 species have encountered marine debris, and 92% of these interactions are with plastic. 17% of the species affected by plastic are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species [1]. What's more, microplastics can accumulate in the bodies of these animals and interfere with their health as well [3].

Its even scarier that what scientists can see and measure, in the garbage patches and on beaches, accounts for only a tiny fraction of the total plastic entering the water [4]. Based on studies on the the amount of plastic ejected into the ocean and the ways it is known to sink, a study estimated that 196m tons of plastic may have settled from into the deep ocean since mid-20th century. The silver lining is that some action to tackle this issue have begun, with more countries beginning to ban the use of single-use plastics. China joined the bandwagon quite recently - non-degradable bags will be banned in major Chinese cities by the end of 2020 and in all Chinese cities and towns by 2022 [5]. Global movements like Plastic-free July have been trying to spread awareness on this issue, which is an important step in curbing it.

Related Stories

Earthzine announces Plastics theme for first quarter of 2020

Fuzzy approaches for the complex problem of microplastic fibre pollution

Plastics: A Threat to our Oceans

Plastics: A Threat to our Oceans

This quarter, Earthzine will focus on a Plastic pollution theme focusing on this growing environmental issue.

Coot and Plastic

Birds and marine animals are often victims of plastic pollution as plastic rubbish interferes with their food systems.

We have covered this issue in past themes as well, but no amount of coverage will be enough to spread awareness on this issue.

Do watch out for articles as part of this theme. We will have articles ranging from discussion on microplastics in cloth fibers, the scale of marine plastic pollution and activities to tackle this and spread awareness on this issue, and a coverage on the plastics-related issues at Oceans conference, Seattle.

If you have ideas or articles to contribute, please get in touch.

References

[1] "The great Pacific Garbage patch", The Ocean cleanup, https://theoceancleanup.com/great-pacific-garbage-patch/

[2] Alejandra Borunda, "This young whale died with 88 pounds of plastic in its stomach", National Geographic, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/03/whale-dies-88-pounds-plastic-philippines/, 18 Mar 2019

[3] Helen Briggs, "Plastic pollution: 'Hidden' chemicals build up in seabirds", BBC,  https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-51285103, 31 Jan 2020

[4] "The missing 99%: why can't we find the vast majority of ocean plastic?", The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/dec/31/ocean-plastic-we-cant-see, 31 Dec 2019

[5]  "Single-use plastic: China to ban bags and other items", BBC, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-51171491 , 20 Jan, 2020

 

The image "Coot and plastic bag" by Guda Oly is licensed under CC BY 2.0