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  • Writer's pictureAna Štrbenac

Plastic? Definitely not fantastic!

It is fair to say that plastic in all forms, shapes and sizes plays an important role in modern life; its use ranges from construction materials, computers, other machines and gadgets to plastic bags and microbeads in some toothpastes and facial scrubs. It seems we are living in a plastic world. Plastic serves us well when we use it, then we get rid of it and forget about it. But, it has been a while we have learnt it is not good “putting things under the carpet” and hope everything will be all right. Our misdeeds get to us sooner or later, especially when our seas and oceans are concerned.

I come from the Adriatic Sea region. And the Adriatic Sea is so blue, clear; most beautiful sea in the world! However, for many years, there is a struggle with large amounts of plastic packages and other similar items brought by the sea currents and piling up on some beaches on land and on the islands. And more and more these days, when you plunge into the sea, you can find the pieces of plastic not only on the sea bottom, but also small particles floating around in the sea column.

At global level there are 5 giant ocean swirling garbage patches. The largest of them called “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” has a size of Texas and estimations say it contains 3,2 million tonnes of garbage! And this is only what we see. Recent studies also show that we already eat the plastic! Very small pieces of plastic, so called microplastics, are found in mussels from Arctic to China…Not to mention that plastic destroys wildlife; particularly sea birds and sea turtles.

There are two main approaches to this issue: either to cure symptoms or to reduce causes. The first approach is important, since there is so much plastic in the marine environment that needs to be taken out somehow. But this approach seems like a Siziph labour if not dealt simultaneously with reducing causes. Namely, one can clean the beach over and over again, but there is not much use unless one prevents a constant intake of garbage. And here we come to the consumption habits. This is something that should be changed, not today, already yesterday! Because if we continue as “business as usual”, what do we leave to the next generations?

Very hopeful is the UK decision to ban the manufacturing of products containing microbeads – these tiny particles you find in some cosmetic products.

And fortunately, it seems that next generation is already taking a lead to solve garbage problem. One Dutch teenager (of Croatian descent) – Bojan Slat- founded the non-profit organisation Ocean Cleanup in 2013. The Ocean Cleanup is developing advanced technologies to clean oceans from plastic. By utilizing the ocean currents, their passive drifting systems are estimated to clean up half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 5 years’ time.

On the other side of the ocean, Carter and Olivia Ries, two kids from the USA, established the non-profit organisation One More Generation (OMG) in 2009. Carter and Olivia’s intention is to preserve all species for at least One More Generation… and beyond. They have recently launched a campaign: the OneLessStraw pledge campaign. Plastic straws, (like single use plastic bags) are very much used, particularly by younger generation.

The campaing points out some worrying figures:

· Every day we use 500.000.000 plastic straws. That is enough straws to fill 46.400 large school buses PER YEAR!

· Each year 100.000 marine animals and over 1 million sea birds die from ingesting plastic!

· U.S. Consumption is equal to enough plastic straws to wrap around the earth's circumference 2,5 times a day!

What can we do? You don't have to buy anything. You don't have to convince others to do what you are doing. You merely have to say „No“ to all plastic straws.

and be that one, but meaningful drop in the ocean of change, for your and our good!



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