Friday, July 3, 2020 | ePaper

Plastic Pollution An Extreme Disaster In The Ocean

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Plastic is much more durable than paper or cloth. That's why this product is now everyone's choice for wrapping different products. It has quickly gained popularity due to its relatively small size and portability. After the use of various plastic materials, especially plastic bottles, polythene bags are being disposed of in the natural environment without recycling, among which ocean is one of them. Plastic pollution is causing a concern to marine environment with human health.
Plastic is a chemical that takes a long time to mix with the environment or to be recycled in a factory. The country is producing an estimated 312 tons of plastic every month. But, only 9% of plastic can be recycled from the environment, which is very negligible.
According to a study conducted by Poribesh Bachao Andolon (POBA), where 15,000 metric tons of plastic was used in Bangladesh in 1990, it has increased at 12 lack metric tons in 2018. In these 28 years, the use of plastic has increased almost 80 times. In 2016, Bangladeshis used an average of 17.24 kg of plastic products. Most of its waste is being dumped into the sea through rivers.
This is a matter of concern, around 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been made from crude oil since 1950. About 30% of these are still being used in homes, cars or factories. Another 10% of plastic was burned which is not much enough. The remaining 60% of plastic waste is causing environmental pollution somewhere, especially in the ocean.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says, about 2% of the produced plastic is dumped into the ocean. According to a study in 2012, world's oceans contain about 165 million tons of plastic waste. Current estimates show that at last 8 million pieces of plastic are entering the oceans every single day.
Global plastics consumption is predicted to grow dramatically, to reach close to 400 million tons a year by 2025. If the rate at which plastic debris enters the ocean goes unchecked, it is possible that the ocean could contain 1 tone of plastic for every 3 tons of fish by 2025, and more plastic than fish by 2050. For a growing population people must depend on the ocean to meet their food and nutrition needs. It can be said that marine fish, plants and animals meet a large part of human protein needs. But sea pollution will become one of the obstacles for them to grow.
In this case, ocean is now a plastic trash bin where world's plastic wastes are dumping without any hesitation. In south Asia, Bay of Bengal is being filled with plastic trash and other pollutants. A large amount of plastic wastes are deposited in the shoreline. As a result, it hampers the fish breeding form habitation. Plastic pollution is a threat to our blue economy. Also it has a direct impact on marine ecosystem. Many species are being disappeared and some species feel crucial time.  
In the ocean, plastic pollution hurts sea turtles, whales, seabirds, fish, coral reefs and countless other marine habitats and species. A recent study found that sea turtles that ingest just 14 pieces of plastic have an increased risk of death. The young are especially at risk because they are not as selective as their elders about what they eat and tend to drift with currents, just as plastic does. It can change their food chain and diverse ecological components.
Plastic waste kills up to a million seabirds in every year. Unable to recognize the plastic floating in the sea, the birds eat it. And alarming news is that about one million birds die each year from eating plastic. Many seabirds are found dead with their stomachs full of this waste. Plastic materials emit toxic chemical polychlorinated biophenols which damage various tissues of the body. Scientists estimate that 60% of all seabird species have eaten pieces of plastic, which will rise 99% by 2050.
Moreover, Plastic material does not biodegrade, but breaks down into tiny particles known as micro plastics.  These particles in the ocean are commonly defined as less than 5mm in diameter which may be eaten by small marine animals and so enter the food web. They affect hundreds of marine species. Some sea animals and birds can also become tangled up in plastic debris, leading to serious injuries and fatalities. We must avoid products containing plastic micro beads.
Plastic waste can encourage the growth of pathogens in the ocean. Scientists concluded that corals that come into contact with plastic have an 89% chance of contracting disease. Plastic pollution also destroys the beauty of beaches, destroy coastlines as well. The coral of St. Martin Island is already on the brink of extinction. If it continues like this, maybe the beaches will lose its beauty soon.
We need more initiatives from stockholders and government to save our marine ecosystem. We should reduce our own use of plastics. It includes plastic bags, water bottles, straws and any other plastic products which are used once and then discarded. We have to ensure regular beach cleanup. This is one of the most direct and rewarding ways to fight ocean plastic pollution. We need to raise public awareness about the impact of plastic pollution.
The best way to do this is purchasing reusable and recyclable versions of those plastic products i.e. reusable bags, bottles etc. Recycling helps keep plastics out of the ocean and reduce the amount of new plastic in circulation. The most important thing is using of proper disposal method like as incineration or land filling. Government should take stern action regarding plastic waste management.
(Nazmunnaher Nipa is a student of Department of Environmental Science & Engineering, Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University. She can be reached at nipasheikh13@gmail.com)

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