Plastic, Plastic Everywhere...

Oct 12, 2013 By Deepa Gopal
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If you thought plastics are only found in the world's oceans, think again! Scientists studying Lake Garda, a freshwater lake in the Italian Alps, found an unusually high concentration of plastic in the pristine waters.

The amount of plastic is not only comparable to that found in marine beaches, but some of the plastic pellets are very small and could be mistaken for food by fishes and other marine life.

Scientists are concerned with the impact on animals as well as the dangers of it entering the food chain. The lake's waters are also used for drinking and irrigation.

How Is Plastic Getting In?

It is no different from what we see in our world's oceans - human activity is the biggest culprit. Apart from water sports, and tourist and fishing boats, the main sources of waste entering Lake Garda were discarded plastic products and debris which may originate from landfill sites.

Plastic is not bio-degradable, which means it cannot be absorbed by the earth. In the waters, due to the sun's ultraviolet rays and currents, the plastic polymers get broken down into smaller particles. However they do not completely disappear. Some plastics have toxins that are slowly dissipated in the water. Sometimes the marine animals get entangled in the plastic nets and rings.

Heard Of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean lies a huge swirling mass of trash known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The garbage patch is not visible from any satellite, nor does it have floating plastic bags, or aluminum cans - things that you would usually expect in a garbage patch. Instead, it consists mostly of broken down plastic debris and chemical waste.

How does the patch form? After all, it’s not like we send ships sailing out into the waters to dump our land waste every day. What happens is that over the course of many years, ocean currents pull waste and debris that accumulate on the coast lines into the ocean. The rotating currents then slowly pull it all together, thus forming a patch. The debris is mostly drawn from the coasts of North America, and Japan. While most of the debris is drawn from land, cruise ships and fishing trawlers also contribute to the patch.

What Can You And I Do?

We can consume fewer products that contain plastics or are packaged with plastics; we can use reusable bags when we shop; we can be careful about disposing off waste by the ocean; we can make smart choices about traveling by ships or taking vacations at sea. If you eat fish, or other sea food, find out how the fish or sea food is grown and harvested.

Is there anything else we can do? Are you changing your plastic footprint?