THE fright­en­ing scale of the scourge of plas­tic pol­lu­tion was re­vealed this week on a par­adise is­land in the Caribbean.

From Roatan’s pow­dery white beaches to its ex­ten­sive coastal man­groves, plas­tic was ev­ery­where, wash­ing up in tiny shreds or form­ing in masses of bot­tles and bags.

I joined 150 em­ploy­ees of sparkling wa­ter firm So­daStream in a sym­bolic clean-up as part of the firm’s Plas­tic Fight­ers cam­paign.

The ef­fort was in­spired by the sight of a 15-mile plas­tic slick that formed LIFE is tough for her­mit crabs. They’re tiny, have to find an aban­doned shell to call their home and spend most of their lives try­ing to avoid be­ing eaten by preda­tors.

But the crab I met on a Caribbean beach this week had other hur­dles to cross. When I ap­proached he made a dash for it – across a large thick sheet of yellow plas­tic.

Then he dived into a pile of plas­tic bot­tles, cut­lery, rope, the gen­eral de­tri­tus of modern life.

It was just an­other day in the haz­ardous life of modern marine crea­tures.

I was on the beau­ti­ful Hon­duran is­land of Roatan, a haven of rain­forests, ba­nana plan­ta­tions, white beaches and man­groves where many lo­cals bear the names of Bri­tish pi­rates.

I joined 150 em­ploy­ees of the sparkling wa­ter firm So­daStream for its Plas­tic Fight­ers cam­paign. In Turk­ish bath hu­mid­ity and un­der boil­ing heat we took a boat to the man­groves which pro­tect the coral reef – the sec­ond big­gest in the world. Fear...Daniel Birn­baum


The aim was to col­lect as much rub­bish as we could, sort of black­ber­ry­ing for trash. In a cou­ple of hours we gath­ered 450 bags or 4.5 tons of rub­bish, most of it plas­tic.

As vul­tures and mag­nif­i­cent frigate­birds wheeled over­head, we found the in­tri­cate net­work of man­grove roots tan­gled with trash.

First up was an Aber­crom­bie & Fitch san­dal, then a Pan­tene hair bot­tle, a blue Nivea lid, bleach bot­tles, sun­tan bot­tles, wa­ter bot­tles, hy­po­der­mic sy­ringes, pack­ets of crisps, tooth­brushes and plas­tic cut­lery left to fes­ter for decades in the swamp.

There were hard plas­tic bot­tle tops, the plas­tic stems of cot­ton buds, bro­ken toys and dolls plus sty­ro­foam, which rapidly breaks up into tiny par­ti­cles that spread across the sea.

Plas­tic bags floated translu­cent in the wa­ter look­ing for all the world like jel­ly­fish. No won­der tur­tles eat them – and die.

We also saw mi­croplas­tic and even tinier nanoplas­tic de­velop. Some pieces broke into dust as we picked them up, al­ready ground down by years of sun, wind and waves. So much of this tide of trash lay unseen, buried in the sand, relics of years of modern life which could be with us for cen­turies. Tack­ling this is the modern equiv­a­lent of the Greek myth of Sisy­phus who was given the task for all eter­nity of push­ing a huge boul­der up a hill only to watch it roll back down again ev­ery time. As fast as we picked up cam­paigner Maria Wester­bos, of the Plas­tic Soup Foun­da­tion, said: “Eight mil­lion tons of plas­tic are thrown into the oceans ev­ery year. In 2015 the world pro­duced 380 mil­lion tons of plas­tic and con­sumers threw 40 per cent of it away af­ter just 20 min­utes. A pol­luted ocean is a se­ri­ous dan­ger to our health.”

The big­gest peril is posed by minute plas­tic traces, formed when big­ger items break down, which work their way up the food chain. And by 2050, there could be more plas­tic by weight than fish in the world’s oceans... the rub­bish, more was brought in, bit by bit, on the waves.

So­daStream chief ex­ec­u­tive Daniel Birn­baum said: “We are not here to clean up garbage.

“What we col­lected over the past two days rep­re­sents 30 sec­onds worth of the plas­tic thrown into the sea ev­ery year.

“We are here to get in­spired so we can in­spire oth­ers at home and cre­ate a move­ment, a rev­o­lu­tion for change.”

We were on Roatan be­cause last Oc­to­ber it hit world head­lines when a

A young vol­un­teer joins in with the clean-up on Roatan and, inset, a her­mit crab

off the coast of the coast of the is­land and went vi­ral on so­cial me­dia.Daniel Birn­baum, 56, the former Bri­tish-owned com­pany’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, warned: “This isn’t about sav­ing na­ture or dol­phins. It’s about sav­ing hu­man­ity.” En­vi­ron­men­tal

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