Plastics in the ocean

The headline, "Plastic Can Take 500 Years To Bio-Degrade In The Ocean," caught my attention today together with an infographic that backs up the statement. The data was obtained from NOAA and Woods Hole Sea Grant and the infographic was created by statista. I'm assuming some maths genius calculated the rate of degradation of certain plastics and projected it on a timeline, otherwise no one would have actually observed the rate of decay over 500 years, unless of course he or she were time travelers. But it is a serious problem for the oceans and it seems people are finally waking up. Little did Dustin Hoffman know in The Graduate about the effect 'plastics' would have on our world.

Yesterday, the European Parliament (EP) voted overwhelmingly by 571 votes to 53 to ban a range of single-use plastics. The proposed directive will ban items such as plastic straws, cutlery, plates and cotton swabs by 2021 and will introduce measures that will ensure that 90 percent of plastic bottles are recycled by 2025. The products that will be banned are estimated by the EP to account for more than 70 percent of maritime litter. Governments have been proactive in banning plastic grocery bags and now this welcome legislation will add more muscle to the fight. 

MEPs also agreed to reduce pollution from cigarette filters that contain plastic. They are the second most littered single-use plastic item and can take up to a decade to bio-degrade. Under the directive, waste from plastic-containing cigarette filters will be reduced by 50 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2030. How they will measure this is unknown. 

Other items that are worse include plastic containers, wet wipes, disposable diapers and fishing gear that take much longer to break up once they enter the environment. The legislation includes such items and requires 'marking and extended produced responsibility requirements'. I'm not quite sure what that means, but we are heading finally in the right direction.


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