Plastic oceans

Saccharina latissima,
Saccharina latissima, also known by the common name sugar kelp, Saccharina latissima is an ecologically important system. It is a primary producer, delivering plant material to the coastal food web. Can it also replace plastic?

Can seaweed replace plastic?

More and more alternatives to plastics are being proposed these days, as the world wakes up to the immense “longevity” of single-use plastics.

One of these alternatives—seaweed—is the focus of Notpla, a London-based startup that has developed packaging that is designed to be composted, dissolved or consumed after use.

The decision to use seaweed was made after considering that it was abundant, grew fast, sequestered carbon from the air and did not require pesticides.

Snail-inspired trash-collecting robot to target microplastics

Scientists have developed a small robotic device that can collect microplastics from the surfaces of oceans, seas and lakes. 

Plastic collection devices currently in use mostly use drag nets or conveyor belts to retrieve plastic debris from the ocean. These, unfortunately, are unable to collect microplastics, which enter our food chain after they are consumed by marine animals that eventually end up on our dinner plates.

In a report published in the journal Science, a team of Japanese researchers described a species of bacteria that can break the molecular bonds of one of the world’s most-used plastics - polyethylene terephthalate, also known as PET or polyester.
In a report published in the journal Science, a team of Japanese researchers described a species of bacteria that can break the molecular bonds of one of the world’s most-used plastics - polyethylene terephthalate, also known as PET or polyester.

Plastic-eating bacteria to the rescue?

Plastic pollution is a gigantic problem. Our beaches and waters are littered with plastic, marine life ingests it or gets ensnared and particles are entering our food web and organisms. Microplastics are everywhere now.

Plastics comprises 84 percent of Australia's beach debris

As much as 84 percent of the rubbish found on Australian beaches in the past ten years is plastic.

Almost half of all the debris originates from land-based sources (littering, dumping on land, etc), and seven percent from dumping activities at sea.

The remaining 42 percent could not be traced to a specific source as they had broken down into smaller fragments, which would eventually become microplastics.

This was the findings of a study led by University of New South Wales (UNSW) Science, and published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

Howard Johnson, Anilao Scuba Dive Centre, Shala Caliao, scuba diving news, PPE, COVID-19, face masks, plastic pollution, Rosemary E Lunn, Roz Lunn, X-Ray Mag, XRay Magazine, Philippines
Polymeric materials used in face masks can be a potential source of plastic and break down into microplastic pollution.

Abandoned face masks found on Philippine reef

The popular dive spot is southeast of the Philippine capital, Manila.

BBC Philippine correspondent Howard Johnson joined dive professionals from Anilao Scuba Dive Centre as they resumed diving, following the national lockdown. The dive centre is affiliated to the United Nations Environment Programme’s Green Fins, which promotes sustainable marine tourism in South-East Asia.

Car tyres are a major source of ocean microplastics

Tyres a major source of ocean microplastics

A new study conducted at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research suggests wind-borne microplastics are a bigger source of ocean pollution than rivers, the route that has attracted most attention to date.

Airborne transport has received much less attention than rivers because only the smallest particles can be blown by the wind and their size makes them difficult to identify as plastic. The scientists concentrated on fine tyre and brake dust as there is better data on how these are produced than tiny microplastics from other sources, such as plastic bottles and packaging.

Turtles and plastic bags
Plastics floating in the ocean build a coating of algae and microorganisms that smells edible to turtles.

Why do sea turtles eat plastic? Perhaps because it smells good

To understand sea turtle behavior around ocean plastics, the research team compared how sea turtles in a lab setting reacted to smelling odors of turtle food, ocean-soaked plastic, clean plastic and water.

The turtles ignored the scents of clean plastic and water, but responded to the odors of food and ocean-soaked plastics by showing foraging behavior. This included poking their noses out of the water repeatedly as they tried to smell the food source, and increasing their activity as they searched.

NOC hosts Marine Plastic Pollution Talk

On 10 May 2018 David Jones will be talking on "Marine Plastic Pollution: How did we get here and what can we do about it?"

Plastic pollution is undoubtedly one of the biggest environmental issues we face at the moment. Plastic has only been in our lives for around seventy years, so how did we get to where we are, what went wrong? More importantly, what can we do about it?" David Jones.

UK Microbead Ban By 2017?

Today George Eustice - the Environment Minister - responded stating that the Government would support an initial ban on cosmetics containing polluting plastic microbeads.

There is however a worry that the UK Government's ban may not be as robust as it should be.

Mr Eustice indicated to Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee that the ban could be widened in the future to include microbead use in other products, such washing powders.

Fin whale.

Whale may have died after eating plastic bag

Originally believed to be a minke whale, a postmortem revealed it to be a fin whale. It was the fifth fin whale to be stranded in the county for the last 25 years.

Scars on its 10.7m (36ft) body brought forward the possibility that the whale might have been struck by a ship's propeller, but this has not yet been confirmed. A spokesman from the Coastguard said that the propeller wounds were probably caused by a collision with a ship after it died.

Instead, he offered another possibility: "It probably died of contamination after eating a plastic bag or something similar."