Plastic Pollution in our Oceans

On Wednesday night I attended a debate on Plastic Pollution in our Oceans, this is part of the RGS 21st Century Challenges series.

It was an interesting evening and consisted of three diverse and thought provoking speakers. It provided some useful information for the IB Option that I am currently teaching; Oceans and their coastal margins.

Some of the nuggets of information that I noted down were:

  • Every albatros on the island of Midway contains plastic.
  • Much is still not known about the Oceans, in the last ocean census 2,000 new species of plants and animals were discovered.
  • The most important animals is not whales and dolphins which receive the most press attention but the photoplanktin and zoo plankton which account for the base of the food chain.
  • One cycle of the big ocean gyres takes about 6 years, after 60% of the material leaves the gyre and is distributed throughout the rest of the ocean.
  • There is not just one garbage patch but several: Indian Ocean, North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic.
  • The plastic is not destroyed but breaks down into smaller particles; eventually microscopic.
  • All UK waters have a concentration of plastic dust.
  • Turtles die from eating plastic bags because they look like a jelly fish.
  • Some plastics break down in the oceans releasing chemicals.
  • In addition plastics absorb other chemicals like sponges; this makes the chemicals more dangerous when the pastic is eaten.
  • All plastic we have ever produced is somewhere.
  • Globally only 7% of plastic waste is being recycled.
  • Out of the world’s oil production 4% goes towards plastics production; 86% goes towards transportation and heating.
  • Plastics can be recovered to make more plastics or energy.
  • Biodegradable plastics are good for certain approaches however they don’t degrade in a saline environment.

More details about the lecture including the video (after 25th October) is available on the 21st Century Challenges website here.

I obtained free tickets as part of our RGS Schools Membership!

The next event in this series is on December 1st and is entitled can the UK ever be sustainable.