Some months ago (on 10 June), The Guardian reported that, of all the various forms of rubbish polluting our oceans, just ten types of plastic items account for 75 percent of ocean-borne trash.
The top four of those items are all associated with food and drink; plastic bottles, single-use bags, food containers and wrappers—many that once held take-out orders—account for almost half of the human-made debris.
The study that yielded these results even distinguished between such plastic items and others that had held toiletries and household products.
Fishing material (such as lines and nets) is also a component of ocean pollution, but is usually found in open ocean, whereas the plastic detritus from take-out food and drink dominates the pollution that accumulates on the surface and ocean floor near or along shorelines. Researchers found that the U.K. and U.S. lead all major countries in per capita generation of plastic waste.
This has prompted scientists concerned with marine litter to call for more than just a clean-up, but for changes to be made at the source, like banning certain types of disposable packaging.
TRENDPOST: Trends Journal lamented Earth’s oceans having become a “plastics’ graveyard” and reported on the movement to ban or curtail such products in “AT LAST, AN ANTI-PLASTIC TREND” (5 Jun 2017). Or, the waste might actually be harnessed; see “NEW WAY TO CLEAN UP OCEAN PLASTIC” (1 Jan 2020).
Now comes a more recent article from The Guardian, on 8 November, which reveals a newer component in the plethora of plastic waste making its way into our oceans: the single-use, disposable personal protection equipment that has proliferated as the world deals with COVID-19; see “MASK POLLUTION” (16 Mar 2021).
And in addition to all the masks and gloves—of which there is already evidence of their impact on wildlife; see “MASKS KILLING WILDLIFE” (13 Apr 2021)—are tons of COVID-related waste from hospitals, in volumes vastly exceeding the personal items. All together, COVID-related plastic refuse in the world’s oceans weighs in at some 25,900 tons. About 73 percent of the COVID-related plastic waste in the oceans comes from Asian rivers, followed by 11 percent from European rivers.
Such findings indicate a great need for medical waste management, particularly in COVID-19 epicenters, and especially in developing countries.
TREND FORECAST: When such plastic waste is incinerated, instead of being dumped where it can find its way to the ocean, it contributes to air pollution; see “POLLUTION VS. CORONAVIRUS: WHO CARES?” (26 May 2020). But whether it’s polluting our water, our air or both, don’t expect to hear much from those ardently supporting mask mandates, or from those who believe the greatest threat our civilization faces is “climate change.”