And this is the story behind its greatest enemy – plastic waste, floating dangerously in our oceans. How will we ever clean it up?
In 2008 I had the good fortune to visit Hawaii, and coincidentally came across the story of an English film-maker who had gone to Hawaii and found the albatross chicks dying of mal-nutrition because their stomachs were filled with plastic debris, accidentally fed to them by their parents who had scooped up the plastic with the fish they were catching.
This photographer, Rebecca Hosking, came back to England and persuaded her home village to ban plastic carrier bags – something that was quickly adopted by other towns. Now, supermarkets across Britain are actively discouraging the use of plastic bags in favour of the ‘bag-for-life’ made from hessian. Rebecca’s fim ‘Message in the Waves’ was shown on BBC Natural History Channel.
The RSPB asks for used stamps to raise money for equipment for the long-line fishing vessels, which scares the albatross away so that they will not dive for the fish being hauled into the boat, thereby escaping death themselves.
It is interesting to me that Coleridge’s poem ‘The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner’ which tells of the sailor who carried an albatross around his neck as a punishment for killing the albatross, is so poignantly relevant today. We carry the dreadful burden of responsibility for destroying these magnificent birds, and all the other marine life, by allowing our oceans to become a death trap from our plastic and toxic waste.
Maybe plastic waste needs to be reduced at source – by the reduction of manufactured products like plastic bags – but until this can be achieved, retailers can change to paper or biodegradable bags and consumers can just stop using plastic wherever possible. Our grandparents didn’t have plastic bags – they had hand-made shopping bags which were attractive, practical and durable, and brown paper bags; and they would take re-fillable containers for milk or cider, oil or vinegar, or paraffin.
Bug munches plastic trash, possibly cleaning oceans
Published: 29 March, 2011, 13:31 RT news on – https://rt.com/news/sci-tech/bug-plastic-cleaning-oceans/
Image from state-of-affairs.org
Nature may have found a way to dispose of the huge amounts of plastic garbage, which has been increasingly accumulating in the oceans. A small bacteria feeding on it has been discovered. This may be a boon or a bane for the aquatic environment.
The bacteria was discovered through electron microscopy on plastic items sampled at the Sargasso Sea, an area in the North Atlantic, where debris tends to stack up due to local currents.
The primitive organisms live in pits in the plastic and appear to feed on it as well, says marine microbiologist Tracy Mincer of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.
“They look like you took a hot barbecue briquette and threw it into snow,” Nature News cites Mincer as saying. “You see this melting bit all around the outside of the cells, and they’re just burrowing into the plastic.”
The specialized bug is not encountered in other environment, like surrounding seawater or seaweed.
Scientists are not yet sure whether these organisms will eventually do more good than harm in dealing with pollution. If their digestion products are environmentally-friendly, then it would mean that nature has found a new way to limit the damage humanity does.
But plastic contains numerous toxins, and the bacteria may be introducing those into the food chain by feeding on it and then becoming food for larger organism.