As oceans fill to the brim with discarded plastics, communities are doing what they can to manage the destructive material. While independent brand Eco Connect is finding ways to make plastic reusable, places like Kenya are simply banning the medium entirely. In the U.K., environmentalists are taking a less radical but highly effective step towards cleaner oceans. Daycares in southern England are officially banning glitter to prevent microplastics from contaminating water.
“Glitter is absolutely a microplastic and has the same potential to cause harm as any other microplastic…” [said research associate Alice Horton.]
Considering glitter is purely ornamental, there truly is no use for the material. Effective in only 19 Tops Day Nurseries, the ban won’t make a significant impact, but it sends a clear message.
“On a small scale, one nursery banning it is unlikely to have any environmental impact, but it’s a good environmental statement to make, like one person choosing not to buy bottled water to reduce plastic bottle waste. [It is] not going to change the world but [it] sets a target for others.”
Sometimes, change isn’t all about results — making a difference can arise from how one inspires another.
Vast and mysterious, the ocean harbors many secrets. The great blue is home to shipwrecks and unusual species, along with — most urgently — tons of waste. Regrettably, the number of pollution-detecting technologies, such as swimming robots, remain limited. However, a new dye identification technique may help uncover 99% of microplastics invisible to the naked eye.
“Using this method, a huge series of samples can be viewed and analysed very quickly, to obtain large amounts of data on the quantities of small microplastics in seawater or, effectively, in any environmental sample,” said University of Warwick researcher Gabriel Erni-Cassola.
The dye is fluorescent, and clings easily onto the smallest of plastic particles. Previous attempts to assess microplastics involved manually retrieving samples (and presumably tired eyes coupled with a lot of frustration). The new method will allow more thorough ocean clean-ups and likely save a lot of marine animals.
“It is important to understand how plastic waste behaves in the environment to correctly assess future policies,” said Dr. Christie-Oleza.
Plucking thousands of discarded bottles may do the trick — but not if stealthy microplastics can get away.
You know ocean plastics are getting out of hand when beach resorts use them to decorate. According to the U.N., enough is enough. To put an end to plastic pollution, the U.N. Environment Programme drafted a resolution signed by 200 partner countries.
“There is very strong language in this resolution,” [said] Norway’s environment minister, Vidar Helgesen…
“We now have an agreement to explore a legally binding instrument and other measures and that will be done at the international level over the next 18 months.”
Projected to host more plastic than marine life by 2050, the ocean could use a helping hand. The new resolution hopes to slash the eight million tons of plastic that end up tossed every year. Participating countries are aiming to abolish “useless” plastic products such as straws.
“While this is not a treaty, significant progress is being made … 39 governments announced new commitments to reduce the amount of plastic going into the sea,” said the chief of public advocacy at UNEP, Sam Barrat.
Change, like any other, will take time. But at least we’ll no longer be risking plastic chunks in seafood platters.