Plastic Pollution and Penguins?

Many people may see plastic pollution as a local issue, but did you know that small pieces of plastic have made their way to super remote locations? Plastic pollution has been documented in Antarctica, one of the most remote locations on the planet, for decades. Now though, scientists are finding out that microplastics, which are harmful to marine life, are also making their way to Antarctica. Researchers documented similar levels of microplastics in Antarctica as other, less remote locations globally. While many come from marine industry, we can all help solve the problem by putting less plastic into the environment.

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What can sea turtles tell us about the plastics in our oceans?

Some of our best insight into the types of plastic litter in the ocean comes from examining what is ingested by sea turtles. Recent research looks at how the composition of plastic waste changes with ocean depth, as informed by the eating patterns of sea turtles.

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The Fate of Our Microplastics

Microplastics, or plastics smaller than a sesame seed, have become a growing concern for marine environments. A majority of facial cleaners contain microplastics, such as microbeads or micro exfoliates, which get washed down the sink drain and end up in our oceans. A research team in Auckland, New Zealand investigated four local brands, and determined all four brands contained about 150 microplastics per 1.5 grams of cleanser. Most were around the size of a grain of sand, and some were irregularly shaped and susceptible to breaking down into smaller pieces. The apprehension of these findings is that small plastic particles could be confused for food by microscopic marine life, and the plastic could accumulate up the food chain and harm marine life. Furthermore, microplastics can also accumulate chemical toxins in the ocean, and their environmentally persistent nature allows for them to become more toxic as they age. Therefore, simple measures such as using organic facial cleansers, and becoming more aware of our daily habits and products use, are essential to reducing ocean pollution.

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