From the Arctic to Antarctica, and the surface of the ocean to the sea floor, creatures great and small are being affected by plastic pollution. In July we learned that zooplankton, microscopic organisms at the bottom of the marine food web, are ingesting microplastics. In August we learned that up to 90% of seabirds already have plastic in their guts. In September we were told that more than half of sea turtles have eaten plastic. It’s the same story just with a different species; “Eating plastic can kill or wound turtles by blocking their gut, piercing their intestinal wall, or by releasing toxic chemicals into the creature’s tissues. And even if the plastic doesn’t puncture the stomach, the long-lived creatures still risk death by starvation – some turtles simply stop eating because they feel full after swallowing the indigestible plastic” according to this article. Turtles, in particular, eat jellyfish and a plastic bag floating in the ocean sure looks a lot like a jellyfish. In October, this article informed us of a dead whale with “enough plastic bags and fishing nets in its stomach found in its stomach to fill an excavator bucket." Whales feed not only on zooplankton, but on many other things such as giant squid. "The large amount of man-made garbage in the stomach could reduce its appetite and cause malnutrition, it was likely a critical cause of death. About 80% of the sperm whale’s diet is giant squid, so this whale might have mistaken plastic bags for food.” This is just one of the many reasons why Californians Against Waste is working hard to uphold SB 270, the statewide plastic bag ban that is under attack by out-of-state plastic bag manufacturers.
While it might have been no surprise that a quarter of fish sold at markets contain human-made debris, even humans who don’t eat seafood are subject to the effects of plastic pollution. It was recently discovered that the sea salt we season our food with now contains microplastics. If this isn’t a call for us to reduce the amount of plastic waste that we are creating as a species then what is?