This article is part of our “Youth Head Delegate Blog Series” — written by our YHDs!
By Jenna D.
Plastics have become present in everyday items we use like grocery bags, straws, water bottles, body wash bottles, toothbrushes; these are just a few of the things we use every day made out of plastic. Using plastics has a detrimental effect on marine life. Each year a shocking 8 million tonnes of plastic pollutes the waters. Plastic can take a decade or even hundreds of years to decompose as it is not biodegradable. Microplastics have been found in lakes, oceans, rivers, and, streams which make their way into our food and water. Plastics lower the quality of water as plastics contain many toxic compounds. The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that there may be around 51 trillion microplastic particles in the ocean and these numbers are extremely concerning. We all enjoy the privilege of having clean drinking water here in Canada, but we need to make sure we also pay attention to the alarming amount of plastics ending up in it. Canadians annually use 700 plastic bags, 720 single-use cups, 1025 plastic bottles, and 730 straws. These plastics pose a threat to us and marine life.
We all appreciate how the oceans contain some of the most beautiful marine life like whales, sharks, different types of fish, corals, and other living organisms. Our consumption of plastic, however, is putting aquatic animals’ lives at risk. Many marine lives end up choking to death, consuming the plastic that causes digestive problems, or receiving lacerations that get infected, which affect their ability to swim. Reports have concluded that around one million seabirds and one hundred thousand marine mammals are killed every year by consuming plastics. Roughly 44% of seabird species have been documented to have plastic debris in or around their body. Seabirds will mistake plastic for fish and will end up consuming the plastic, which can result in their death. Many animals have and are still being affected by marine plastics, but it not only affects them but also affects us.
In Canada, we can see plastic wash up on shore which, poses a threat to marine life and us. Many people enjoy eating seafood, especially fish, however as marine life like fish consume plastic and we then consume that fish that might have had eaten microplastics, it will affect us. For us to be consuming these plastics can lead to many serious problems like cancer, immune system problems, and congenital disabilities. Consuming microplastics put our health at risk but, there are many things that we can do to help there be less plastic ending up in our waters.
We have now learned that not only does plastic pose a threat to marine lives, but it affects us as well. Now you may be asking yourself, what can I do to help fewer plastics ending up in our oceans? Firstly, try to use less plastic and switch to more reusable options like metal or glass water bottles, bags, mugs, or straws to help reduce the usage of single-use plastic. Secondly, you can educate yourself and others on how plastic affects us and marine life. Lastly, try to encourage local restaurants within your area to switch to more sustainable cutlery, straw, and takeaway boxes.
Many people are aware of this issue yet, spreading more awareness about how plastics are harmful to us and the environment will hopefully encourage people to switch to sustainable options to help save our waters. Educating yourself and others and making small changes will help reduce plastics usage, thus resulting in less of it polluting the water. Making small changes to reduce the amount of plastic ending up in the water will have an overall positive effect.