Concern about Big Blue: Many news stories circulated this past year detailing massive quantities of ocean plastics. Perhaps the most iconic marine plastics story was that of a video taken by Texas A & M Marine Biology graduate student Christine Figgener three years ago off the coast of Costa Rica. The video is of an Olive Ridley sea turtle having a plastic straw removed from its nostril. It is linked here. WARNING: The video is graphic.
This video went viral this year after circulating widely for the past two years. It caught the attention of chief execs at fast food and coffee chains including McDonald’s and Starbucks. Both companies are currently phasing out plastic straws. Many local restaurants, pubs, even municipalities have eliminated or are currently planning to switch to corn-based straws. Over the past decade many businesses have already switched to corn-based disposable tableware.
As Figgener notes, eliminating plastic straws is a positive step, but certainly more must be done to remove and to prevent more plastics from ending up in the world’s oceans. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now estimated to weigh upwards of 79,000 tonnes covering a geographic area three times the size of France, according to an article published in the journal Nature in March. The cities of Montreal, Seattle (over 350 U.S. cities have banned plastic grocery bags), several South Pacific and African nations as well as the U.K. have recently enacted bans on one-time use plastics including straws, tableware, and bags. This most humbling science story of the year also includes a first ever assessment of microplastics presence not only in the oceans but also in bottled drinking water.
We can easily address this problem at the local level. Join us in working to change our habits to care for God’s Creation. If you’d like to learn more about how to reduce your town’s plastic bag waste, visit the Plastics Pollution Coalition.
Stay tuned for our third and final installment of the year in Science. Part three includes: a new and better kilogram, death-mission to the sun, and more!