The 30th June is a significant date in Australia as supermarkets will slowly phase out the use of plastic bags. The impact of plastic has already caused wide-spread destruction, according to World Environment Day, 13 million tonnes of plastic leak into the oceans each year and on the 2 June 2018, a whale died in Thailand after consuming more than 80 plastic bags. Countries such as Thailand, China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam have also been ranked as the top-five plastic polluters, washing eight to thirteen million tonnes of plastic each year.
Not only does plastic bag consumption severely impact marine wildlife but, even the smallest piece of plastic can destroy an animal’s life. On the 25th May 2018, a seal pup was found to have ingested plastic that may have been a plastic wrapper. However, veterinary pathologist Andrew Brownlow has stated ‘plastic ingestion in cetaceans and seals is really rare. They’re intelligent animals that seem to be able to distinguish between plastic and prey.’ This highlights how plastic pollution has become an epidemic, even to intelligent marine wildlife.
With these kinds of stories more prevalent in current news, it seems that the prediction of having more plastic than fish in oceans by 2050 sounds more like reality. Studies have also shown that the scent of plastic now attracts animals such as birds, causing them to consume plastic instead of krill.
However, there are ways you can help stop this problem. World Environment Day is today, with its theme: Beat Plastic Pollution. Join the game #BeatPlasticPollution tag, where you are required to take a photo or video of a single-use plastic product you are ready to give up as well as a reusable alternative. Share this photo or video and tag three friends, businesses or high-profile people to do the same in 24 hours. Don’t forget to use the hashtag and mention @UNEnvironment. For more information, you can click here to view the infographic.
You can also find an event on the World Environment Day website where different areas will host events relating to plastic pollution, including promoting litter less to attending talks on plastic pollution. Alternatively, you can register you own event!
UN Environment has also partnered with Litterati, an app that allows you to identify, map and show collected litter with a photograph. You can also record the plastic items and brands you find. As a result, the data will be used to form a ranking of most commonly found plastic products and brands. You can also use this app to start or join clubs.
Cross, J (2018)., “Plastic bag ban: Everything you need to know before June 30.” 9 News, published on 1st June
Dalton, J (2018)., “Whale dies after swallowing 80 plastic bags.” Independent, published on 3rd June
Lewis, A (2018)., “Swimming Against a Plastic Tide.” Village Magazine, published on 29 May 2018
Parker, L (2016)., “Animals Eat Ocean Plastic Because it Smells Like Food.” National Geographic, published on 9th November
Parker, L (2015)., “Nearly Every Seabird on Earth is Eating Plastic.” National Geographic, published on 2nd September
Zachos, E (2018)., “How a Seal Pup Died With a Plastic Wrapper in Its Stomach.” National Geographic, published on 31st May
About the author
Olivia Widjaja is a high school student and has a strong passion in animal environmental rights, and health care. In her spare time, she enjoys researching and writing about these issues
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