Author: class 1st Grade Lower Secondary, Volissos High School, GR
PARTNERS: class 1st Grade Lower Secondary, Olympion High School, CY; class 1st Grade Upper Secondary, SS Vela Luka, HR
Plastic at sea (photo Eftichia Vlysidou)
Plastic is a material that is widely used in human activities, due to its durability. Plastic waste is found everywhere in the sea (and not only in the sea) in large quantities. The range of use and the durability of the material make the pollution from the plastic particularly extensive and difficult to control.
Over time, plastic waste breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, which are detected both in water and on the ground and in the air. The oceans contain more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic, which come mainly from waste and are constantly decomposed into smaller particles. Indicatively, 96% of the plastic pieces collected in a sample of North Atlantic waters were microscopic fibers. In addition, tiny plastic granules used in many products such as soaps, toothpastes, and even sewage treatment plants also end up in the seas.
The decomposition of plastics has serious implications for human health. The smaller a particle, the more easily it is absorbed by an organism and penetrates the food chain and human tissues. At the same time, the deposition of contaminants on the surface of plastics increases significantly when they break down into smaller pieces. When a grain of plastic breaks down into tiny particles, the total surface area of the particles is thousands of times larger than the original.
Microparticles are not easily detected, such as large, visible pieces of plastic. They remain invisible, but are consumed by plankton, fish and other animals, absorbed by various organisms and end up in the food chain. Drinking water in many countries contains plastic particles. Extensive analyzes of tap water around the world revealed that 83% of the samples contained plastic fibers. Tiny plastic particles have also been found in sea salt and shellfish.
Many fish swallow the particles thinking they are plankton: pieces of plastic have been found in the entrails and tissues of fish and birds. Plastics absorb pollutants that spread to the environment and are transported to fish and birds. and in the atmosphere. Fibers from paints, synthetic clothing and car tires (detached by friction on the road) are suspended in the air. These particles are "ideal" size for entering the respiratory system: they have a similar diameter to inhaled drugs for the treatment of asthma.
Many of the microparticles, fibers and chemicals that end up in human tissues have been repeatedly found in the brain, muscles, milk, blood, and various other parts of the body. Such particles and substances penetrate mainly through the digestive and respiratory systems, but also through the skin. The question now is how much the plastic particles that are proven to be present in the substances we eat, drink or touch affect health. Some of the most definitive answers to this question have been given by research into the toxicity of certain plastic packaging.
According to a study (2018), plastic was found in the human digestive system. Because plastic floods our lives, it is not clear whether we inhale it, drink it, eat it, or all of the above. Current calculations show that the average adult swallows as much plastic as a credit card has, within a week.
Therefore, finding a solution to the problem is of particular importance. Ecological and scientific bodies suggest taking effective measures to address the issue, such as replacing plastic with paper, using bioplastic, and recyclable plastic.