Protecting Marine Life through Better Plastics Design

Scientists call for better plastics design to encourage recycling, and to prevent small pieces of indestructible materials from finding their way into our oceans.  Richard Thompson, a marine biology professor at the Plymouth University, said that better designed plastics reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  He added that clear bottles can easily be recycled compared to dyed bottles.

Microplastics accumulating in our oceans have been a problem for over 6 decades, with most of it from disposed poorly-designed plastics.  Alice Horton, eco-toxicologist at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, suggests people should recycle more, reduce plastics usage, and to realize its effects on our oceans.  Alastair Grant, ecology professor at the University of East Anglia, said that debris-catchers can help clean up the oceans, but preventing plastics disposal is more efficient.

Microbeads are microplastic wastes used in beauty and health products such as body scrubs and toothpastes.  Banned in the US and UK, scientists say they have absolutely no societal benefit.  Although microbeads have been phased out, it is harder to ban all plastics due to their important uses.  A study published in June found that microbeads affect the growth of fish larvae.  Fish larvae died of starvation and showed less response to their environment.

Producers have tried biodegradable plastics to solve the problem, but these plastics only break down in certain conditions.  Scientists at the UN called this a “false solution”.  They have since been doing research on sources and varieties of plastics, and their effects on marine life.  Though scientists are finding a permanent solution, Thompson said they must focus on what they can do with what they already know.

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