Marine Debris :Floating towards a bleak future

Marine Debris :Floating towards a bleak future

The litter that ends up in oceans ,seas or other large bodies of water is collectively referred to as Marine Debris . This manmade waste makes it way in these water bodies through the following ways –

Waste disposal ,including municipal waste (often without segregation)

Trash thrown on beaches or directly into the water from boats and offshore facilities

Litter also makes it way from land as debris is carried away by storm drains ,canals and rivers

Sometimes , sea storms and other accidents cause ships to sink or lose cargo .

Types of Debris

The majority of Marine Debris comprises plastic, ranging from bottles, balloons ,lighters ,buoys to nets and containers .Other waste products include glass bottles ,aluminum cans ,cigarette lighters and buds, in addition to waste ejected from cruise ships and oil rigs

Microplastics & Bioaccumalation

Plastic doesn’t degrade easily .Even the biodegradable variant’s breakdown is inhibited by the cooler temperature of the sea for it needs to be heated up in landfills and compost pits to biodegrade.They ,instead break down into simple smaller pieces ( ranging from 0.3 mm -5mm) which gets ingested by animals and give them the feeling of being full. These are termed as microplastics. “Nurdles” or manmade usable plastic pellets are one such example of microplastics . Microplastics result in the starvation and malnutrition in marine animals. These nurdles and other small plastic pieces float on the ocean surface and block the sunrays from reaching the aquatic plants and algae which depend on the sun to manufacture nutrients ,thereby ultimately disturbing the entire food web. Toxins such as Bisphenol A and other chemicals also tend to get accumulated in the body of marine animals and plants.Starting from the smaller fishes ,these toxic chemicals find their way in the entire food chain.

Ultimately ,the debris also ends up .hurting the economy as a result of the decrease in fish population. Bisphenol A ,Mercury and other toxins are also a. major risk to the consumer health.

What should be done to subvert the problem then? Using nets and other techniques to clean up the debris becomes a tedious task ,especially when done at large scale therefore a much greater stress must be laid on preventing more garbage from entering the oceans. Its estimated that India alone discards almost 10,000 tons of plastic waste without any segregation into its water bodies or openly into lands each day. This waste takes no time to finds its way out into the open oceans and seas.

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