How an Image of Turtle Plastics Changed the World for the Better
Have you ever considered the effects of turtle plastics? It was an image of a turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose that, while painful to look at, spurred global discussion and change overnight. World Sea Turtle Day is June 16th, but we should be thinking about these gentle giants and all other sea life every day when we choose to use plastic items.
Turtle plastics: two words that should not go together
While the birth of the modern plastics era came in 1907, sea turtles have been around since the dinosaur age, for about 110 million years. Yet one of the biggest threats to their existence is plastic pollution. According to the World Wildlife Fund, research has shown that 52% of turtles worldwide have eaten plastic waste. This is largely related to plastic bags in particular – when floating in the ocean, they easily resemble jellyfish, algae, and other sea turtle food.
About 1,000 sea turtles die each year from eating plastic. Researches at CSIRO in Australia report that turtles have a 22% chance of dying because they ingest a single plastic item. Plastic waste can either puncture the gut of the sea turtles or completely clog it.
How plastic affects ocean life
The damage doesn’t stop with sea turtle plastics – plastic pollution affects all ocean dwellers. As the United Nations reports, we estimate that up to 80% of marine debris is plastic. 800 species are affected by this ocean litter. With so much plastic in the ocean, marine life has no choice but to interact with it. Apart from ingesting it, the plastic can also tangle and trap fish, birds, and turtles – both of which cause drowning, suffocation, and starvation.
Since humans are dumping trash at the rate of a garbage truck’s load into the ocean each minute, the problem is only growing. Scientists estimate that by 2050, the combined weight of ocean plastics and turtle plastics will exceed the weight of all of the fish in the seas.
How can you help fight turtle plastics and plastic pollution?
The reality is that if we continue to purchase plastics, companies will continue making them. Single use plastics, those that are created for just one use before being thrown away, are the worst offenders. Considering that we use the average plastic bag for just 12 minutes before throwing it away is mind-boggling. On a global scale, we use one million single use plastic bags every minute. The numbers don’t get much better when it comes to plastic beverage cups, cutlery, and straws.
What can you do? Bring your own reusable versions! Read this post on the best alternatives to single use plastic for more ideas. When you go to the grocery store or stop by a convenience store, tell the cashier that you don’t need a bag and that you brought your own. When you get take out, ask them to keep the plastic cutlery. When you get a cup of tea on the go, bring your own cup. If everyone on the planet took these simple steps, turtle plastics would no longer be part of our vocabulary.
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