Marine plastic pollution: a global threat

Marine pollution is one of the greatest threats to humanity and nature. For instance, plastic pollution has recently become a disaster which has significantly created global issues.

Marine plastic pollutionPlastic accumulation in our oceans and on our beaches has led to a global crisis. Billions of pounds of plastic can be found in swirling convergences that is composed of about 40% of the world’s ocean surfaces. Recently, the rate of accumulation of plastic is expected to outweigh all the fishes in the sea by 2050.

Besides, much of the litter is of plastic made which contains plastic bags, industrial containers, cigarette butts, drink containers and various other consumer items.

This litter is mostly found in the marine environment which is just not only cause damaging life of seabirds, turtles, fish, marine mammals collective marine megafauna but also interacts with lungworms, corals, oysters and bivalves.

The micro and nano-sized plastic particles are also found to be more toxic and become a threat to the marine environment. These micro and nano plastics are developed for different purposes and their particles are consumed by marine organisms as mistakenly eaten as a food source.

According to our growing knowledge pertaining to micro and nano-sized plastics, these particles also take part in marine pollution leading towards destruction of marine life.

Additionally, one scientific study has revealed that about 8 million metric tons of plastics are being expelled into our oceans every year which is expected to be twice greater at the end of 2025.

These various types of plastics with different colors affect marine life on the shore and off the shore. The seabirds used these plastics as a source of food during ingestion and their particles suffered about 267 animal species.

According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric administration plastics debris kill an estimated 100,000 marine mammals annually as well as millions of birds and fishes. The criticism was made by the environmentalists on plastic that it is not easily biodegradable and it is considered as a long-lasting pollutant.

Another study identified small plastic pellets (mermaid’s tears) in the great amount on the beaches and waters of America, Australia, Europe, Africa, and Antarctica.

They described that this plastic debrisis is the result of domestic and industrial wastes which are distributed across the world’s seas. All the creatures present in the sea are swallowing the toxic water which is the mixture of different chemicals generated from decomposition of plastics.

Besides, the plastic debris also affects the health of humans .It is because the hazardous chemicals being eaten by fishes are indirectly transferred to human body. For instance, Bisphenol A (BPA), an organic compound produced from the decomposition of plastic cause negative effect on animal and human life.

From some study, it is also proved that BPA interferes with the reproductive system which metabolized and cause toxic effects on the brain, prostate gland of fetuses, infants and sometimes behaves as carcinogenic.

Other studies on BPA also suggested that high level of BPA associated with diabetes, heart diseases and abnormally high levels of certain liver enzymes. Moreover, marine litter has also drastic influence on economic losses among various sectors and authorities.

The most seriously affected are coastal communities (increased expenditures for beach cleaning, public health and waste disposal), tourism (loss of income, bad publicity),

Shipping (costs associated with fouled propellers, damaged engines, litter removal and waste management in harbors), fishing (reduced and lost catch, damaged nets and other fishing gear, fouled propellers, contamination), fish farming and coastal agriculture.

Whether plastics present a unanimously accepted and proven toxic challenge to marine life, and subsequently to humans and economics, is one of the biggest challenge being faced by scientists right now?

The plastic is man-made material and is discarded by humans into oceans which are spread across all world’s seas. So, it is now cleared from the above mentioned discussion that humans are a big culprit for disturbing the nature of marine life as well as of other populations.

To overcome these all challenges there is a dire need of proper management, awareness and campaigns. For this purpose, the ultimate initial step will be educating the masses.

Through the education, the communities will be well trained with sound knowledge of science that how we can dispose the plastic wastes properly. In this regard, the different organizations have to launch pollution free workshops whose main aim should be to educate the public that how we can make our environment clean.

The government need to strictly ban the use of plastic bags. Media can also be used as an important tool to create awareness through creative ventures, launching different awareness programs regarding these issues.

More importantly, world scientists pertaining to environmental issues are humbly requested to create new innovative technologies for biodegradation of plastic to convert them into useful purposes.

A promising way toward a future of better plastic waste management is recycling the material. The recycling industry might eventually be a path leading to considerable opportunities and solutions.

International collaboration is highly needed on urgent basis to reduce the demand for single-use plastic products, shift to a sustainable plastics economy, and improve waste management infrastructure that promotes zero-waste.

At the last but not the least we all should take responsibility individually and collectively that we will never dispose marine plastics on the wrong way which has lead to environmental cataclysmic effect.


PhD Candidate (Polymer Materials) at Zhejiang University, China

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