Plastics have been an integral part of human life. It is one of the most prevalent materials in the world. Plastics are commonly used by industries for packaging purposes (Fanshawe & Everard 72). Since there are inadequate mechanisms that control the adoption of the products, the impact on the use of plastics has become a global issue. Plastics’ incorporation into today’s lifestyle has been a major contributor to polluting mediums such as air, soil, and sea. Plastics are detrimental to the atmosphere due to their flexibility and durability. Plastics contain toxins that have an indestructible morphology, which harms the environment (Hammer, Kraak & Parsons 5). Studies show that the marine environment carried the biggest mass of the plastic debris (Fanshawe & Everard 72). The effects on the oceans can be attributed to the rotation in the current which ends up catching moving debris and moving them to vortex center leading to their accumulation. The plastics have a negative impact on the oceans (Steensgaard et al.). Since humans are at the top level of the nutrition chain, they are affected too by the plastics indirectly. Canada faces a lot of challenges in the management of the plastics on their marine environment. Marine biologists have been at the forefront in highlighting the issue to the population and government. Over, the last half-century, an enormous amount of plastics have entered Canada’s ocean. Environmentalists have classified plastics as the new DDT. Thus, there is need to evaluate some of the studies that focus on the marine plastic pollution, particularly in Canada.
Plastics marine debris has been categorized as a global phenomenon that has a negative impact on the marine environment. Some of the aquatic effects include entrapment or entanglement of the seabirds and turtles, habitat destruction, and ingestion (Steensgaard et al, n.p). Plastics have a considerable financial costs on the coastal economies due to its effects on the tourism and cleanups (Hammer, Kraak & Parsons 14). Coastal areas ought to have an aesthetic appeal as means of attracting others (Fanshawe & Everard 73). However, plastics seem to have detrimental effects on the marine environment. Marine plastic pollution is one of the solvable and pervasive issues facing various countries across the globe. Some of the plastic debris include cigarette filters, food wrappers, nets, and bottles among others (Sheavly & Register 302). United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has been at the forefront in advocating for control and management of marine plastic pollution (Provencher, Bond & Mallory, 1). The focus on the oceanic environment can be attributed to the importance of the marine life in the day-to-day activities of the humans and sustainability efforts. The problem with plastics arises due to their compositions (Sheavly & Register 303). For instance, they are made up of cheap, durable, and light materials. Plastics can be cheaply produced which implies that they can be discarded once used. The durable and light properties of plastics make them easily transported across the ocean. Thus, the buildup of the plastics in the marine setting is a result of the improper human behavior, inadequate waste management, and incidental pollution.
Marine plastic pollution has been widely highlighted through media avenues such as newspapers, televisions, social media, documentaries, and films. However, there has been minimal changes in the human behavior regarding the plastics. The efforts by the UNEP, which is an international organization implies that marine plastic pollution is a global problem that needs the contribution of all parties irrespective of the government and other related stakeholders . The light and durable characteristics of the plastics means that they can quickly move from one location to another (Hammer, Kraak & Parsons 5). Therefore, there should be a collective effort of the countries to address the problem. Ascertaining the societal benefits of the plastics is hard. In most cases, the macroplastics (>5mm) enters the marine environment through dumping, rivers, or inadequate control of waste (Pettipas, Bernier & Walker 117). Recently, studies focus on the conversion of the macroplastics into microplastics (<5mm). The most abundant plastics in the marine background is the microplastics which exist in either primary or secondary form (Pettipas, Bernier & Walker 117). Various contaminants are associated with the plastics. For instance, the persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that are part of the microplastics consist of petroleum hydrocarbons, bisphenol, and polychlorinated biphenyls (Pettipas, Bernier & Walker 117). It is clear that the contaminant included in the plastics pose a significant threat to the marine environment.
Marine plastic pollution continues to be a problem due to the implications on the humans and cetaceans. A significant percentage of the research focus on the adverse effects of the plastics on the marine environment. The impacts can be evaluated from an economic and environmental perspective. Marine is one of the primary sources of tourism. Humans depend on the marine for their food and pleasure. Plastics accumulate in the marine surroundings. The floating plastics impacts the fishing and tourism activities. It would be hard for the people to practice their undertakings due to the adverse effects on the transportation or movement of vessels (Hammer, Kraak & Parsons 8). The marine plastics pollution also affects ecotourism. Plastics create unappealing seascape and coastlines which discourages tourists from visiting the places. Most of the studies focus on the buoyancy of plastics as the main threat to the marine environment (Fanshawe & Everard 72). The ocean currents move the plastics from one place or nation to another making it hard for individual efforts to mitigate the issue. Polymeric materials ought to degrade upon the subjection to the environmental factors such as biodegradation, photo-oxidative degradation, and thermal oxidation among others (Hammer, Kraak & Parsons 10). The marine plastics fail to biodegrade due to the environmental conditions on the ocean. The floating nature of the plastics makes it hard for heat build-up because the infrared radiations do not act on them. Thus, the marine plastics degrade at a prolonged rate than those on the land.
Most plastics depend on photo-oxidative degradation to break down. However, the marine environment does not provide a favorable climatic condition for the deterioration of the plastics (Hammer, Kraak & Parsons 11). Scientist rely primarily on seabirds in assessing the impacts of the plastics on the marine environment. Seabirds are commonly found on the beaches and mostly consume plastics due to their nearness to the sea life (Provencher, Bond & Mallory 7). In Canada, environmentalists and biologist studies seabirds for the ingested plastics. Consequently, Canadian waters provide an adequate case study for examining the impacts of the marine plastic pollution. Seabirds are used in the studies because they are classified into two groups namely migrants and breeders (Provencher, Bond & Mallory 7). In this case, breeders are presented in the Canadian waters while migrants are seasonal and only come for breeding purposes. The two groups of seabirds offer sufficient knowledge on the ingestion of the plastic materials. As a result, the scientists using the seabirds to study the marine plastic pollution would have the opportunity to identify the geographical spread of the plastics from both local and international perspective.
Human behavior contributes marine plastic pollution. Hence, it is pivotal for responsible stakeholders to understand the factors that lead to the pollution. A significant percentage of people or consumers do not have adequate information on the impacts of their actions on the environment. When people have sufficient knowledge, they can make appropriate decisions or choices on matters regarding the disposal of waste (Sheavly & Register 304). Most of the studies try to highlight the marine plastic pollution by focusing on human behavior. However, there are knowledge gaps that require further research by the scientist. For instance, the information provided by the study of seabirds is inconclusive (Provencher, Bond & Mallory 8). There should be studies on other species such as animals so that conclusive data can be examined and analyzed correctly. Additionally, studies reveal that the oceans have more plastics than the inland water bodies. It is unreasonable to argue that the government focuses only on the inland waters and neglecting the oceanic regions, especially in Canada (Provencher, Bond & Mallory 9). The durable and buoyant characteristics of the plastics can be blamed for the difference in the plastic quantity. The Canadian government may be working tirelessly to reduce the marine plastic pollution. However, the ocean currents keep moving the plastics from other regions or countries around Canada.
Marine plastic contamination is a land-based issue that could be addressed by a careful monitoring of human behaviors through legislation efforts (Pettipas, Bernier & Walker 117). Although media have highlighted the problem, there has been no or little contribution by the humans to address the plastic issue fully. The challenge can be attributed to the unavailability of the management strategies and policies that seek to govern the contamination of the microplastics. Waste management strategies are one of the most viable ways of managing the marine plastic pollution. In most cases, humans tend to dump the plastics carelessly because there are no laws that prevent them. On the other hand, the MARPOL 73/78 a law by the International Maritime Organization has been fundamental in reducing and managing the pollution that occurs from ships (Pettipas, Bernier & Walker 118). The legislation has ensured that ships that exceed certain limits have to keep a Garbage Record Book which provides all information regarding the waste on board the vessel (Hammer, Kraak & Parsons 34). Moreover, education and awareness are necessary for filling the knowledge gap on marine plastics pollution (Pettipas, Bernier & Walker 120). Media platforms should be used to create awareness and educate masses through visual and audio techniques. For instance, when the population sees the entangled seals due to plastics, they will be emotionally influenced into ensuring that they reduce their uptake of products that contribute to the marine environment degradation (Hammer, Kraak & Parsons 21). Additionally, the Canadian government has strived to locate the source of the plastics in the marine environment. Finding an alternative for the plastics is the only option that could be supported by all stakeholders. The government should encourage the adoption of biodegradable plastics that are made from the renewable materials. In the long run, everyone including the marine life will benefit from the need to reduce and manage the marine plastic pollution.
In conclusion, marine plastic pollution would continue to a global problem if necessary precautions are not undertaken by the government and other related stakeholders. Studies have played their role in highlighting the issue and some of the significant contributors. Human behavior is one of the primary contributors to the marine plastic pollution. Industries play a vital role in aggravating the marine plastics. Thus, it is the responsibility of the humans to mitigate the usage of plastics if they want to conserve the marine environment.
Fanshawe, Tim, and Mark Everard. “The impacts of marine litter.” Marine Pollution Monitoring Management Group, Report of the Marine Litter Task Team (MaLiTT) May, 2002, pp.71-75.
Hammer, Jort, Michiel HS Kraak, and John R. Parsons. “Plastics in the marine environment: the dark side of a modern gift.” Reviews of environmental contamination and toxicology. Springer New York, 2012. 1-44.
Pettipas, Shauna, Meagan Bernier, and Tony R. Walker. “A Canadian policy framework to mitigate plastic marine pollution.” Marine Policy 68 (2016): 117-122.
Provencher, Jennifer F., Alexander L. Bond, and Mark L. Mallory. “Marine birds and plastic debris in Canada: a national synthesis and a way forward.” Environmental Reviews 23.1 (2014): 1-13.
Sheavly, S. B., and K. M. Register. “Marine debris & plastics: environmental concerns, sources, impacts and solutions.” Journal of Polymers and the Environment 15.4 (2007): 301-305.
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