Do you know how much plastic produce each year? Globally we, humans, annually produce almost 300 million metric tons of plastic and in total billions of tons of plastic have been made over the past decades. A study published in 2015 led by Jambeck calculated that 1.74 to 4.61% of 275 million metric tons of plastic a year is washed out to the sea. That is how much plastic from our ubiquitous use of the stuff. My question is why are we should concern about this matter?
A study conducted by scientists from several countries i.e. USA, Australia, Canada, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia (published in the journal Science on 26 January 2018), estimates there are 11.1 billion plastic pieces are entangled on coral reefs from Myanmar to Australia. When coral reefs come in contact with plastic waste, their risk of becoming diseased are more than 20 times higher. “Our study shows that plastic debris increases the susceptibility of reef-building corals to disease. Structurally complex corals are eight times more likely to be affected by plastic, suggesting that micro-habitats for reef-associated organisms and valuable fisheries will be disproportionately affected”, said the researchers, led by Dr Lamb.
Researchers surveyed 159 coral reefs in the Asia Pacific and found the most items of plastic debris on coral reefs are in Indonesia (Bali and West Papua). No less than 25 plastic items can be seen on coral reefs per 100 square meter. The irony is that the largest coral reefs cover and the biggest contributor of plastic debris on coral reefs as well. This is, however, is a sad news, since more than 60% local societies depend on their life from marine resources, said Mr Ahmad (one of the author). “It is irritating to dive together with plastic bags on coral reefs”, Awaluddinnoer Ahmad of The Nature Conservancy, Raja Ampat-Indonesia told me. A major factor explaining a huge quantity of plastic bags is a single-use plastic bag. We can easily get plastic through any kind of buying or selling activities. It is estimated that by 2025, the number of plastics entangled on coral reefs will be 14.7 billion.
Sadly, in some countries, plastic bags ban remains a dream. “No integration of waste management where all plastic waste ends up in the ocean which will cause coral reefs more vulnerable to the disease”, he added. “Improving waste management infrastructure is critical for reducing the amount of debris on coral reefs and the associated risk of disease and structural damage”.
Coral reefs are already under pressure due to global warming, please DO NOT add some more stresses with your ubiquitous plastic use.