ISAIAS MEDINA III “The impact of Single use Plastics in our Oceans”
ISAIAS MEDINA III
PRESIDENT OF WECARE2030.ORG
“The impact of Single use Plastics in our Oceans”
As the 71st President of the General Assembly of the United Nations states, “put simply, we are all united by the ocean. And without a healthy and sustainable ocean, our place on this planet will be in jeopardy to say the least.”
“The Ocean is the lifeblood” and lungs of our planet. “It covers 75% of the Earth’s surface, contains 97% of the Earth’s water, and provides more than 50% of the oxygen we breathe.”
Our Ocean “drives global weather patterns, absorbs around 30 percent of human-produced carbon dioxide, and serves as a critical filter to the ever-worsening impacts of global warming” and Climate Change.
“It is home to nearly 200,000 identified species, although the actual numbers are estimated to lie in the millions.”
“Economists estimate the value of the ecosystem services provided by the ocean to be around $24 trillion per year.”
PRESENT STATUS QUO
Statistics in the Secretary-General report express that oceans and seas and their resources support human life on earth. They underpin poverty eradication, food security, employment, tourism and the protection from natural disasters. They provide humans with water and oxygen, while also being the primary regulator of the global climate and an important sink for greenhouse gases.
Marine and coastal ecosystems provide a vital basis for the livelihoods of many coastal communities, particularly in developing countries. More than 3 billion people rely on fish for animal protein, and some 300 million people find their livelihoods in marine fisheries—90 percent of those in small-scale, artisanal fisheries. The consumption of fish is increasing in all countries.
Marine debris, including plastics and microplastics (MDPMs), are considered “a global concern affecting all the oceans of the world.” It has been observed everywhere: from coastal areas to remote areas far from any anthropogenic pollution sources; from surface waters throughout the water column to the deep water and ocean sediments; and from the equator to the poles, including trapped in sea ice.
However, marine debris has not only increased exponentially, but also become characterized by the growing presence —and now prevalence —of non-organic and non-biodegradable components, in particular plastics. An estimated minimum of 5.25 trillion plastic particles weighing 268,940 tons are currently floating in the world’s oceans. These figures do not include plastics accumulating on beaches or the sea floor, trapped in sea ice or ingested by organisms, all of which may partly explain the tremendous loss of microplastics observed from the sea surface compared with expected rates of fragmentation. Moreover, the quantity of such plastics in the marine environment is expected to further increase in view of their durability and resistance to natural biodegradation, as well as the continuous growth of global plastics production, also as a result of the emergence of new markets (BRICS). While marine debris in general continues to present a considerable challenge, plastics and microplastics have gained prominence, and increased attention from the scientific community has brought the real scale of their environmental, social, and economic impacts.
Depending on its size, plastic debris in the oceans is referred to as belonging to the category of macroplastics (above 5 millimetres (mm)), microplastics (less than 5 mm) or nanoplastics (less than 100 nanometres (nm)). Primary microplastics are plastic particles that were initially produced in that small size, while secondary microplastics result from the continued fragmentation of larger plastics, which occurs by design or through weathering degradation, mainly caused by solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation and physical abrasion by wind and waves.”
The origins of marine debris, including plastic litter, are diverse and include a variety of land-and sea-based sources. It has been determined that about 80% of marine debris enters the oceans from land, with an estimated input of 4.8 million to 12.7 million metric tons per year, which underlines the need for increased efforts to reduce impacts on the marine environment from land-based activities.
“One quarter of all carbon dioxide released through human activity is absorbed by the oceans, raising the acidity of the sea water, with dire consequences for the marine ecosystems. Studies have shown that since the beginning of the industrial revolution, oceans have become 27 per cent more acidic, and predictions show that, by 2050, ocean acidity could even increase by 150 percent. Some estimates predict that up to 60 percent of the current biomass in the oceans could be affected positively or negatively by CO2 emissions and climate change, with severe implications for ecosystem services, and 90 percent of coral reefs will be threatened by 2030 if no protective measures are taken.
Destructive fishing practices, overfishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing are increasing pressures on marine ecosystems, and nearly one-third of all fish stocks are now below sustainable levels—up from 10 percent in 1974. Harmful fisheries subsidies exacerbate the problem by encouraging fishing overcapacity.
The deterioration of coastal and marine ecosystems and habitats has more severe and immediate impacts on vulnerable groups. Small Island developing States (SIDS) in particular, with their culture and economies deeply interconnected with the oceans suffer acutely from the degradation of marine ecosystems.”
CHANGE MEANS OPPORTUNITY
Positively looking at the status quo we can ascertain that the current prejudicial trend damaging the Ocean needs to change immediately.
Where there is change, there is opportunity, this is an incredible opportunity to evolve and bring about the best of our selves, to add value in the hour of need.
We have been undermining and taking for granted our oceans, our air, our water, biodiversity and all the ecosystem services provided by them.
We are at the turning point of our consciousness, where we decide to be part of the New Order, responsibly consuming, allowing for the exposure of the importance in the market place of Consumers, more than suppliers.
ENGINEERS OF OUR OWN DESTINY
We choose our products, we engineer our own destiny by the choices we take; every action has a reaction. It is time to recognize the power of Oneness, effective individual change to change the World around us; each individual is a potential global citizen, influencing our surroundings in a sustainable way.
The 2030 agenda for sustainable development is a clear roadmap to achieve it; we have to go above and beyond to create a permanent change in our daily lives projecting our impact into the future.
PLASTIC CURRENCY, CIRCULAR ECONOMIC FORMULA
To begin with, we have an opportunity to create innovative ways for a New Economy, bending a linear economic theory - which has proven to be non-sustainable, into a Circular/Ocean Blue Economic practice; this will bring the real change.
We have an incredible chance to develop new economic principles to motivate change in our individual habits and patterns, and those corporate prejudicial Habits. Responsible consumption and production are the steps to a healthier life cycle of a new market economy.
Regarding Single Use Plastic Products, we can see a clear example of useless habits, 500,000,000 plastic straws a day are consumed in the USA, 2 and half circles around the world full of useless single use plastic straw debris, used for seconds, every time we suck on a straw we are sucking up life from our oceans! Straws take an infinite eternity to decompose.
All plastic products that have been brought to the market are still in existence one way or another due to its inability to decompose or biodegrade, this has to change, and has to change now!
Redesigning plastic products, raw materials and use patterns is inevitable. Moratoria to single use of plastic products are undeniable!
Right the wrongs through legislations
Points to address for parliaments worldwide: Taxing plastic bags, straws and single use plastics to make a clear message that they are not a business anymore, mandatory taxes for the production and sale of single use of plastic products, and banning of single use of plastic products are legislative options that can bring change in the midterm.
In the short term we must tax ourselves by repeating the mantra that “we are the change we want”, “we make our choices and those choices drive the market”, “we can build a cleaner life by every choice we make”.
You may think that the waste management service is responsible to collect and disappear half a billion straws daily, but in reality, by discarding uncountable single use of plastic straws, small containers, plastic wraps, plastic bags, plastic 8oz water bottles, shakers, etc, we have over saturated the system and underestimated our contribution to a healthier, cleaner, long living society.
Changing prejudicial trends, wherever we are
We need to substitute our behavior and influence the market, driving change through action, in everything we buy, use and own.
Everywhere we are: school, work or home. We can make a change, and together we can change our world for the best, one day at a time, one transaction and in every action.
We can and must influence our family members, friends and colleagues.
We must own and carry our own containers for water, coffee, food, avoiding single use plastics.
New Market, the road to Convertion
Imagine how much material we can spear the oceans to receive. We can stop pollution radically, as much as we can change the steep learning curve of Climate Change, by design; we individually and collectively make or break the market.
There is an evident need for a new market, a sustainable one, with cleaner energy, reusable materials, clean water, where exchange is open and rewarded to recirculate the life cycle of products.
I simply say adaptation is not enough, we advocate for conversion era creating hundreds of thousands of jobs; stimulating the economy by changing transportation patterns, in air, water and land, by changing the linear economy into new circular economic patterns.
Concentrating zero carbon footprint ideology into action!
Awarding credits or lifting taxes to encourage change from fossil fuels to clean energy sources.
Same with plastic, hundreds of thousand jobs will be created for the new logistics, for the new plastic infrastructure and economy, this framework can be applied to clean energy, clean water, and cleaner environmental indexes that can help the economy while building sustainable healthy societies.
To high a price
It is obvious that damage has already be done, for more than one hundred years, since the industrial age began, and even more post WWII era, consumption has driven economic growth, weather responsibly or not this was not in the agenda, just boost the economy whatever the cost. Well today we cannot live up to the price, is too high to pay, the destruction of life as we know it is in play.
How much you consume how much you owe determined your value in society. Today it should be the opposite axiom, how much you contribute for sustainability, for cleaner air, water and land should be recognized and awarded, for lower loan rates, for promotions and so on, we should be categorized by the less carbon foot print we create, by the less garbage we produce, by how much we give back to the environment, not by how much we take or how much money we can accumulate.
Industries have poisoned water, air, and oceans… we are the silent shareholders of every company by purchasing their products and services, this is why we have to express our vote through our individual transactions against single use of plastics.
We are not slaves of the economy, we are the owners! We just don’t know it yet.
Small Choices, Big Changes
The stressors to our oceans are many, plastics and micro plastics among them, and it is upon us, single users to revert this prejudicial trend, every day with the right choices: no straws please, fill my mug please, no plastic cup, fill my water reusable bottle please, no plastic bottles, buying plastic boxes not plastic bottles, etc.
Small choices, big changes!
We must recognize that a straw free diet, a free single use plastic life will bring many benefits to the oceans and to our own life and the future of generations to come.
Our Oceans are Common Heritage of Human Kind! We are the Guardians and protectors of the Oceans; we must become the Champions of this goal 14 for sustainable development!
Transform Poison into Medicine
We have to transform Poison into Medicine!
We can change the world by changing ourselves, transforming our damaging patterns of consumption will drive corporations to act accordingly.
There is a clear horizon for environment friendly products, for a new economy in all ranges.
To illustrate for example, a plastic driven economy where you can exchange plastic products for goods and services, cellular minutes, movies, food tickets, promos, etc… where there are plastic banks that can receive plastic credits, creating a new plastic currency! we should all be contributing to collect Post Use Single Use Plastics, if we are using them, best choice not to buy them, but if you can’t quit the plastic addiction, at least try to get your tax back from depositing plastic where plastic industry can recuperate this material to remake it into raw material, and pay you for your effort. Less than 8% of plastic production is recycled worldwide.
Ocean literacy should be mandatory in education; all 17 sustainable development goals should be part of the education curricula building resilient citizens for sustainable living.
High seas Cleanup Task
The cleanup of the high seas, where micro plastic has been created out of inertia for decades, making a sludge polluting fish, birds, and all biodiversity, that eventually reaches humanity. According to some estimates “if we continue the trends by 2050 the quantity of plastics in the ocean will outweigh that of fish”, what are we going to eat plastic? Or are we already eating it?
“Since 1997, the number of species affected by entanglement in or ingestion of plastic debris has increased from 267 to 557 species among all groups of wildlife. Entanglement represents the most visible effect of plastic pollution on marine organisms, affecting a high proportion of species: e.g., 100 per cent of species of marine turtles, 67 per cent of seals, 31 per cent of whales and 25 per cent of seabirds.
Intentional or accidental ingestion of Microplastics by marine organisms, which mistake it for food, occurs throughout the food web. It has been documented for 100 per cent of species of marine turtles, 59 per cent of whales, 36 per cent of seals and 40 per cent of seabirds. Studies on the ingestion of plastics by fish and invertebrates are a recent development.
As regards the threat of plastic pollution to seabirds, it is estimated that plastics ingestion will impact 99 per cent of all species by 2050. There is evidence of microplastic ingestion by marine zooplankton, which indicates that species at lower trophic levels of the marine food web also mistake plastic for food, posing potential risks to species at higher trophic levels. Secondary ingestion constitutes a form of unintentional plastic ingestion, which occurs when animals feed on preys that have already ingested debris. This raises concerns for human health as well, since plastic debris and fibers from textiles have been found in fish and bivalves sold for human consumption.
Plastic ingestion by marine species may be a direct cause of mortality, limit optimal food intake or contribute to dehydration. Experimental studies indicate that eating plastic has a negative impact on an individual’s body condition, which will translate into negative effects on average survival and reproductive success in populations. By ingesting plastics, marine biota, in particular seabirds, accidentally facilitate and catalyze the global distribution of plastic through biotransportation.”
Impacts on Food Secutity
“Impacts on food security and human health are witnessed primarily through the consumption of fish and seafood. Fish play an important role in food security by providing a supply of protein, micronutrients and lipids. Fish and seafood consumption generates concerns relating to human health with respect to the ingestion of microparticles of the plastic found in fish and seafood, which potentially can cause allergic reactions, endocrine disruption and diseases. Another area of concern is the toxic poisoning caused by marine debris, including as a result of ingestion of microplastics and the associated additives used in their production, which may have toxic effects.”
We are the Force of Change
We are at the brink of change, at the point of no return; we must balance the tipping point to our advantage, to be able to change the environment through our own actions, through our own consciousness.
We can do it together, we are the force of change, and we create the added value of sustainability to understand, bring awareness and overturn prejudicial and damaging trends and habits to heal our oceans and rid of land based debris before it reaches the Oceans.