A call to end plastic pollution

Children playing on a beach filled with plastic wastes on in Manila, Philippines.   | Photo Credit: Jes Aznar

Cities and nations have been looking at banning plastic straws and stirrers in hopes of addressing the world’s plastic pollution problem. This also remained the main theme of the 48th annual Earth Day organised on Sunday.

Australian scientists Denise Hardesty and Chris Wilcox estimate, using trash collected on U.S. coastlines during cleanups over five years, that there are nearly 7.5 million plastic straws lying around America’s shorelines. They figure that means 437 million to 8.3 billion plastic straws are on the entire world’s coastlines.

Oceans at risk

But that huge number suddenly seems small when you look at all the plastic trash bobbing around oceans. University of Georgia environmental engineering professor Jenna Jambeck calculates that nearly 9 million tonnes end up in the world’s oceans and coastlines each year, as of 2010, according to her 2015 study in the journal Science.

That’s just in and near oceans. Each year more than 35 million tonnes of plastic pollution are produced around Earth and about a quarter of that ends up around the water.

“For every pound of tuna we’re taking out of the ocean, we’re putting two pounds of plastic in the ocean,” says Sherry Lippiatt, California regional coordinator for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s marine debris programme.

Organisers of Earth Day have proclaimed ending plastics pollution this year’s theme. And following in the footsteps of several U.S. cities such as Seattle and Miami Beach, British PM Theresa May in April called on the nations of the British commonwealth to consider banning plastic straws, coffee stirrers and plastic swabs with cotton on the end.

Paper straw

McDonald’s will test paper straws in some U.K. locations next month and keep all straws behind the counter, so customers have to ask for them. “Together with our customers we can do our bit and use fewer straws,” says Paul Pomroy, who runs the fast-food company’s U.K. business. The issue of straws and marine animals got more heated after a 2015 viral video showing rescuers removing a straw from a sea turtle’s nose in graphic and bloody detail.

“Bans can play a role,” says oceanographer Kara Lavendar Law.

Scientists say that a ban is a good start. “These items that people use for a few minutes but “are sticking round for our lifetime and longer,” Ms. Lippiatt says.

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Printable version | Sep 16, 2021 7:33:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/a-call-to-end-plastic-pollution/article23638303.ece

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