The story of the plastic whale is truly heart breaking.
The Cuvier’s beaked whale was found stranded near Bergen, Norway, malnourished, unwell and distressed. These whales feed out at sea, at depths of a mile or more feeding on squid, fish and crustaceans. It is only the second Cuvier’s whale to be seen in Norway.
After a few rescue attempts, it was clear that the whale was very unwell and had come to the shallow cove on the Island of Sotra to die. It was euthanised and then taken out of the water for an autopsy. It was here that the staggering amount of plastic that had been consumed, in the mistaken identity of food was revealed. This included over 30 plastic bags, some with the writing still visible to see, giving away its origins, including a bag that contained chicken from the Ukraine and the outer wrapper from a six-pack of Walkers crisps, from here in the UK.
Stories like these, only highlight the unimaginable amount of rubbish that enters the world’s oceans, thought to be 1.6 million tons every hour and 14 billion tons every year. With 269,000 tons floating on the surface. Yet 80% of rubbish found in landfills can be recycled and these include glass, paper, aluminium and plastic products. With plastic being the number one most serious source of pollution in the ocean.
Did you know that there is an area located in the North Pacific Gyre, between the Hawaiian Islands and California, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It has formed here due to the circular oceans currents, through the Earth’s wind patterns and forces created by the rotation of the planet. This mass of floating debris, mainly consisting of small, floating pieces of plastic is four times the size of Texas!
Plastics on average take 500 years to completely degrade. The frightening element of plastics are microplastics. These are plastic particles less than 5mm in diameter (about the size of a sesame seed.) Microbeads, a type of microplastic, are tiny pieces of manufactured polythene plastic. These are added as exfoliants to health and beauty products, including some cleansers and toothpastes. They end up in our oceans and waterways, posing potential threat to aquatic life as they easily pass through water filtration systems.
So, what can we do???? It is evident that manufacturers must take responsibility and source more eco-friendly packaging and products that can be reused and degrade more quickly. There needs to be more fluid and well managed waste management departments in many regions of the world, including support for those in third world countries.
However, there is an awful lot that we, ourselves can do. We need to be much more conscious in the products we buy and the way we recycle. We should avoid purchasing plastic bags as much as possible and our motto should be to re-use and re-use again. When out and about, particularly at the beach, don’t walk past that piece of rubbish, pick it up and bin it!
Most importantly we need to educate and enthuse our children about our amazing oceans, the life source of the planet we live. The more that they are passionate about the animals that live within our oceans, the more dedicated they will be to protect them for generations to come.
For more information on our educational based projects, visit Aqualease.