Plas­tic na na­man!

Sun.Star Pampanga - - TOPSTORIES! -

Fri­day, Septem­ber 29, 2017 Fri­day, Oc­to­ber 13, 2017

I’m writ­ing about plas­tic waste again. The is­sue is not just about pol­lu­tion, flood­ing and clog­ging of canals any­more, but on the safety of the food we eat. Plas­tic waste is in our food. It is be­ing eaten by fish. Mi­croplas­tics has been found also in salt and even in our drink­ing wa­ter.

And it’s not only fish that eats plas­tic. A study done in Bri­tish Columbia (B.C.) in Canada finds an av­er­age of 8 plas­tic mi­crofibers per oys­ters or clams (take note ‘tahong’eaters). As dis­cov­ered by re­searchers on Canada’s west coast, most shell­fish con­tain plas­tic mi­crofibers, re­gard­less of whether they’re wild or farmed.

How was the study con­ducted? In 2016, the re­searchers planted thou­sands of oys­ters and clams along the coast­line of B.C.’s Strait of Ge­or­gia. The shell­fish were left to soak in the sea­wa­ter for three months, where they ab­sorbed what­ever was in their sur­round­ings. Then they were col­lected, dis­solved in chem­i­cals, and fil­tered. The re­sult? An av­er­age of 8 plas­tic mi­crofibers were found in each bi­valve and the resid­ual plas­tic par­ti­cles were gath­ered for fur­ther anal ysi s.

Where are these plas­tics com­ing from? Ac­cord­ing to the study, a sig­nif­i­cant source of these mi­croplas­tics ap­pears to be laun­dry. Ev­ery load of syn­thetic cloth­ing emp­ties an es­ti­mated 1.7 grams of mi­crofibers into the wa­ter stream, and these are not fil­tered out at treat­ment plants. The mi­cro plas­tics in drink­ing wa­ter is also sus­pected to be com­ing from laun­dry.

Canada’s wa­ter bod­ies are cleaner than ours. Just look at the vol­ume of garbage that is washed along the Manila Bay coast­line in Roxas Boule­vard af­ter a storm. So I would pre­sume, sans a de­tailed study, that the oys­ters and clams har­vested along our coast­lines also have mi­croplas­tics.

Here’s another un­fore­seen prob­lem caused by plas­tic waste. They carry non-na­tive species in the world’s oceans. Be­tween 2012 and 2017, sci­en­tists doc­u­mented nearly 300 species of marine an­i­mals ar­riv­ing alive in North Amer­ica and Hawaii on hun­dreds of ves­sels, buoys, crates, and many other ob­jects re­leased into the ocean by the Ja­panese earth­quake and tsunami of March 2011.They sur­vive the long jour­ney be­cause plas­tic is non-biodegrad­able. Once these non-na­tive species en­ters another ecosys­tem and mul­ti­plies, the lo­cal species are af­fected.

Now for a bit of good news. Kenya, a coun­try in Africa, en­acted the world’s strictest ban on plas­tic bags. Re­ports say that it took ten years and three at­tempts to pass the leg­is­la­tion, but they did it. The law pro­hibits the car­ry­ing, man­u­fac­tur­ing and im­por­ta­tion of plas­tic bags. Fines range from $19,000 to $38,000, with pos­si­ble four-year jail terms. All trav­el­ers are re­quired to leave their plas­tic bags at the air­port and res­i­dents are en­cour­aged to drop off old bags at lo­cal gro­cery stores for col­lec­tion.

There are about 100 mil­lion plas­tic bags a year that are given out in Kenya. Their Min­istry of the En­vi­ron­ment and Nat­u­ral Re­sources said that the ban is meant to pre­vent the block­age of sew­er­age and wa­ter drainage in­fra­struc­ture caus­ing floods dur­ing the rain­ing sea­son. The Min­istry also said that the in­abil­ity of plas­tic bags to de­com­pose af­fects soil qual­ity and dam­age ecosys­tems and bio­di­ver­sity. An­i­mals also die af­ter con­sum­ing plas­tic ma­te­rial and air pol­lu­tion is emit­ted plas­tic is burned in open air. As al­ter­na­tive, Kenyans use ev­ery­thing from cloth bags to ba­nana leaves or any con­tainer avai l abl e.

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