At the end of February, a lifeless sperm whale washed ashore on a beach in southern Spain. His stomach was full of 64 pounds of plastic waste he had mistaken for food. Unable to digest the plastic bags and water bottles, scientists say his stomach ruptured.
Last year, a whale in Norway stranded off the coast was euthanized after eating more than 30 plastic bags and other waste. Both of these whales were extremely malnourished, and likely in terrible pain due to blocked intestines.
They’re not the first whales to die because of us, and they won’t be the last.
We Need To Act Now
Last week, the UK took a small step in the right direction by announcing it will be banning the sale of plastic straws and cotton swabs. British Prime Minister Theresa May wants to eradicate plastic waste by 2042, and she’s pushing Canada and other countries to do the same.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s response? He’ll look into it. He says he’ll talk about the problem and possible solutions with the other G7 nations.
They better start talking; figures from the United Nations show eight million tonnes of plastic enter the world’s oceans every year. Plastic bottles, packaging and other waste that we’ve so carelessly discarded ends up killing marine life and entering the human food chain.
If that’s not scary enough, try this on for size: there could very well be more plastic than sea life in our oceans by 2050. A damning report from the World Economic Forum warns plastic will be dumped into the sea at a rate of two trucks per minute by 2030… and four trucks per minute twenty years after that.
We Are In So Much Trouble
I think about how much we take for granted. I’ve been lucky enough to spend many vacations by a few different oceans. I’ve always been in awe of how beautiful they are when in reality, they’re being used as garbage dumps. Just this past winter, my kids and I had schools of fish swimming around us as we snorkelled in Jamaica. I wonder if they’ll ever get to do the same thing with their kids. At the rate we’re going, maybe not, and that breaks my heart.
Critics say Britain’s plastic straw ban isn’t going to do enough, and Prime Minister May agrees it’s only a start. But UK government officials say the ban would keep billions of plastic straws out of the water every year. We need greater action, but let’s not be so critical of even the smallest of steps to solving plastic pollution.
Every Little Bit Counts
Around the world, there are so many movements taking place that can make a difference. Two years ago, France banned plastic cups and cutlery; several US cities including Seattle, Miami Beach, and Malibu have banned plastic straws, and across Canada, hundreds of bars and restaurants have done the same. In July, plastic shopping bags will be a thing of the past in Victoria, Canada; Montreal abolished them in January. And a Swedish fitness trend called “plogging” is now trending around the world. It involves picking up litter while jogging.
If we all collectively took part in these movements, we could make a real difference. If our government leaders won’t step up to the task, then we have to. Making a pledge to use less plastic in our lives is easy enough to do. Because every time we use a plastic bag, bottle, straw or stir stick, we’re contributing to this mess.
We caused the problem. Now let’s fix it.