Wednesday 17th of January 2018

plastic bits in fishes...



The bottom of Sydney Harbour has been contaminated by widespread microplastic pollution which could be entering the food chain, scientists say.

Professor Emma Johnston from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science said the microplastics, or fragments of plastic less than five millimetres long, represented the "emergence of new contaminants in our harbours and waterways".

In the first study of its kind, 27 sites were tested across the harbour, with researchers discovering up to 60 microplastics per 100 milligrams of sediment.

The environmental effects of the contaminants are largely unknown, but there have been moves to ban their use in products overseas.

Professor Johnston said some of the microplastic contamination was coming directly into the harbour.

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There is a rising concern regarding the accumulation of floating plastic debris in the open ocean. However, the magnitude and the fate of this pollution are still open questions. Using data from the Malaspina 2010 circumnavigation, regional surveys, and previously published reports, we show a worldwide distribution of plastic on the surface of the open ocean, mostly accumulating in the convergence zones of each of the five subtropical gyres with comparable density. However, the global load of plastic on the open ocean surface was estimated to be on the order of tens of thousands of tons, far less than expected. Our observations of the size distribution of floating plastic debris point at important size-selective sinks removing millimeter-sized fragments of floating plastic on a large scale. This sink may involve a combination of fast nano-fragmentation of the microplastic into particles of microns or smaller, their transference to the ocean interior by food webs and ballasting processes, and processes yet to be discovered. Resolving the fate of the missing plastic debris is of fundamental importance to determine the nature and significance of the impacts of plastic pollution in the ocean.

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Picture at top by Gus: Glebe, Sydney Harbour, Australia...


inbuilt obsolescence in plastic for profit...

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One of the most insidious plastics in this are the bio-degradables... Because they degrade into small bits. They do not really dissolve. Most plastics degrade nonetheless but they do not DECOMPOSE, unlike other bio-stuff into recyclable life molecules... Some of these plastic are also low grade — like polyethylene that do not have any resistance to sunlight, thus break up into small bits unless other chemicals are added. 

Some plastics items are also made "brittle" in order to increase obsolescence and increase the production of plastics for profit...

ban the microbeads...


Plastic pollution in the marine environment is a “critical problem” for global ecosystems and for human health as microscopic pieces of waste enter the food chain, an Australian Senate inquiry has been told.

The warning came as Guardian Australia learned the federal health minister has the power to instantly ban controversial plastic microbeads from products like soap and toothpaste without any new legislation, according to official parliamentary advice.

Marine biologist Jennifer Lavers told the first day of the inquiry in Sydney on Thursday that she discovered more than one in 10 young flesh-footed shearwater birds – common visitors to Australian coasts – were dying from ingesting plastic or from plastic chemical contamination. “This would be happening in other species as well,” she said.

Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson, who instigated the inquiry, said the issue of plastic pollution in water was one of the main reasons he got into politics.

“I’ve been a surfer all my life, it’s probably my key passion,” he said. “It’s such a massive problem you don’t even know where to start. But I was determined to get started and that’s one of the reasons I went into parliament.”

A marine microbiologist, Mark Browne from the University of New South Wales, told the inquiry that plastic debris, particularly microplastics, has been recognised as a “critical problem for global conservation and human health” by the UN, European Union, US Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and CSIRO.

Much of this rubbish accumulates in large ocean gyres, which are circular currents that collect plastics in a particular area. Each major ocean has a plastic-filled gyre.

Large pieces of plastic are known to kill marine life including fish, turtles and birds.

But a particularly harmful form of plastic pollution is microplastic, which cannot be easily seen by eye. Microplastics are pieces of plastic smaller than 1mm that can be consumed by many organisms and then accumulate in the food chain.

Microplastics are created as larger pieces of plastic pollution, like bags and bottles, but slowly break up into smaller and smaller pieces. They are also added directly as “microbeads” to many cosmetics including body washes, soaps and toothpaste to increase their abrasiveness.

In a submission to the inquiry, the Boomerang Alliance pointed to a study from 2014 that estimated seafood consumers in Europe eat up to 11,000 pieces of microplastic each year. Understanding of the effects of microplastics on human health is limited but they are known to deliver toxic chemicals including Bisphenol A (BPA) into the body, which could cause a range of issues including developmental and reproductive problems.

In the US, some states have banned microbeads in cosmetics and the House of Representatives passed a bill that will ban them nationally if passed by the Senate.

Last year, state ministers agreed to work towards a voluntary agreement to phase out microbeads by July 2018.

But advice to Whish-Wilson from the parliamentary library, seen by Guardian Australia, says the key mechanism that would allow microbeads to be banned in Australia is simply for the minister of health to do so with the strike of a pen. Under the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act, the minister can list ingredients that are not allowed to be used in cosmetics – including soaps and toothpaste – that are manufactured or imported into Australia.


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inbuilt obsolescence in plastic for profit...

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the plasticrapeocene..

Teenage turtles like Cliff are lucky to be rescued, because many are dying after eating hidden plastic pollution in Sydney Harbour and the Hawkesbury River when they come in summer to feed on seagrass meadows.

The Taronga Wildlife Hospital is treating a juvenile turtle dubbed Clifton, because it was found at Clifton Gardens on the north shore.

Hospital manager, Libby Hall, said snorkelers discovered the turtle on December 28. It could not swim or feed because it had ingested plastic.

"He was found covered in barnacles. He had barnacles all over his eyes. All over his shell," Ms Hall said.


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