AUTORAS/ES: Alicja Szczypinska, Claudia Escribano, Claudia Reato, Hugo Morgado

CENTRO EDUCATIVO: European International School of Barcelona  


Recently, it has been alerted that the disquieting amounts of litter we dispose of into the sea arrive later at our table. Plastic and chemicals pollute our seas and oceans and fish that arrive directly from them are not free from contamination. Residual plastic harms fertility, health and the nutritional value of sea life. Each year, 13 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans resulting in the alarming figure of 1 ton of plastics for every 3 fish in the sea. We pour in our coasts more than 26,1 kilograms of plastic per kilometre, which positions us in the second place in the list of coastal parts that more plastic contribute to the Mediterranean. 

5-millimetre plastic pieces are known as microplastics that, due to their small size, are easy for the sea currents to transport globally. As stated by the Uppsala University in Sweden, they can be indistinguishable from natural preys because of their dimensions and, furthermore, fish feel attracted to the bright colours plastics are tinted with, as their nutrition is based on the visual condition. This research, published in the Science journal, suggests that when larvae are exposed to high levels of polystyrene, they prefer it over their natural diet. Studies have already alerted the presence of microplastic traces in humans. We are being contaminated due to our consumption of fish that have previously fed on them.

According to research, plastic has a huge impact on human health. Not only it causes cancer and cardiovascular conditions but also diseases related to the nervous and reproductive system. In order to avoid those issues, some of the solutions proposed are complex due to the people’s exposure to plastic. There are many scientific studies that prove that plastic additives have a big risk on human lives. Firstly, some of the substances like bisphenols, phthalates or isocyanates are endocrine disruptors that have the ability to alter the human hormonal system. This disruptions are related to fertility problems, development disturbances and obesity. Scientifics have found around 144 aquatic species who have plastic fragments in them, and more than half of them are common in our daily diet. Nevertheless most of the microplastics stay in the gut of the fish and do not pass to the muscle tissue, which is what we eat. In addition, scientists are not completely sure about what happens with the plastic toxicity in aquatic organisms when we cook them and what level of plastic ingestion could affect our health because of their microscopic size that can penetrate the cells and move to the tissues and organs.

A 2016 plastic industry report stated that the world’s plastic production has grown by 8,6% per year since 1950: from 1,5 million tonnes annually to over 330 million tonnes per year. This massive increase in its production is mainly due to the several important functions that it serves in our modern lives, which are the primary reasons we rely on it. As for instance, it’s very useful for packaging as it is one of the most important contributors to protecting food from spoiling. According to the plastic industries, the plastic rate produced and spread around the world by 2017, which amounted 9 billion metric tons, was a total success. Instead, it wasn’t the same for our ecosystem, specially for our oceans. Because of the fundamental chemistry of most commonly used plastics, they are not biodegradable, so they accumulate as virtually permanent contamination. According to a report from researchers at the University of California, only about 9% of plastic has been recycled, 12 % has been incinerated, and the remaining 79 %, remains in the environment. If this trends continues, by 2050, there will be 12 billion tonnes of plastic in natural environments. 

Oceans are one of the natural environments most affected by plastic. They have become garbage sites for many plastic wastes having in this way a detrimental effect on marine life. Marine scientists documented 38 million pieces found in a remote island in the South Pacific, amounting to 18 tonnes. Pieces of plastic are sharp, brittle, toxic, and routinely found in the stomachs of dead fish, turtles, and marine mammals. Marine species, including fish and seabirds can end up eating pieces of plastic by confusing them with their food, and at the same time get an additional dose of toxic chemicals. The plastics obstruct the animal’s intestines , block gastric enzyme secretion and other biological effects as a result of the chemical burden they carry. It is estimated that up about 100,000 marine mammals die each year for ingesting plastic or by getting caught in plastic nets or bags. This has a direct effect on our diet, too. Without even realising it, when eating fish we end up ingesting plastic among other contaminants making it part of our daily menu. Without large-scale action, global plastic production will continue rising and according to the 2015 Global Ocean Commission it’s estimated to reach 500 million tonnes a year by now. 

Although pollution has already taken an irreversible toll on marine life, there are still ways to solve these problems, or, at least, reduce the harmfulness of their results. At start, in order to fully solve this issue, that is not only affecting the marine life but also our nowadays diet, it is essential to remove all plastics, including microplastics and microfibers, from the oceans and waterways and, so, provide fish a clean healthy environment to live in. Despite that, in order to achieve this goal, humans must change their mentality and their behaviour about this issue, that is destroying our ecosystems. No matter what measures governments deploy to collect, recycle, and process waste, they will never achieve truly clean cities unless there is a fundamental shift in public mindsets and behaviour towards producing less trash and not littering. This will only be achieved if awareness is raised among the citizens, but mainly on the youngsters in order for them to become “the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than previous generations inherited”.

Not only should humans change their point of view on recycling in order to start to care about our planet, but also learn about the consequences of not doing so. Little by little, an increased focus on marine plastic pollution from environmental organisations, journalists and scientists have contributed to raise awareness on the magnitude and consequences of this pollution on citizen’s mind. Many citizens are nowadays, not only banning the microplastics that could previously be found in products like toothpaste, face wash, and body scrub, named microbeads, but also getting rid of their daily lives cotton buds and plastic straws, and so helping the marine life to survive. But despite the best efforts that some citizens mare taking to reduce plastics on oceans, those are in danger of being undermined. 

Businesses are set to churn out more plastics, making our reliance on them even harder to avoid. Not only until we find an alternative for plastic, companies will continue to produce it and so, destroying the habitats of many oceanic species. If we don't do something about it, the sea will not only return the plastic that we have thrown back to us, but we will also destroy ourselves. Because after all, nature always returns what you give.




AUTORAS: África Romero y Julia Garrido

CENTRO EDUCATIVO: Laude Altillo (Jerez de la Frontera)  

We have chosen this photo because it is very important for us  because when we drink a drink if we keep the caps we are helping the environment since we are recycling and helping other people to combat their disabilities since the caps can change the lives of these people. What we try to show with this photo is the way we can help the  world. Almost everyone knows the effects of climate change, but very few bother to help the planet. And this is a very simple way. Help the planet and donate your caps!