Plastic pollution has been one of the most alarming concerns for humankind for the past few decades. Recently, plastic straws have emerged as a deadly threat to marine life. It is already estimated that more than 500 million plastic straws are used each day all over the US. It is a bigger concern that most of these get dumped in the oceans that eventually float over the water and kill marine animals.
The majority of the plastic straws that are used are extremely lightweight. This makes it unsuitable to get processed or sorted with the help of mechanical recycling. When put through this process, the straws usually tend to drop through the sorting screens and blend with all the other waste materials. Moreover, plastic straws are very small to be separated and they contaminate the recycling loads.
In addition, plastic straws normally end up in the water bodies due to the irresponsible acts of human beings. They are often seen lying around on the beaches around coastal areas all over the world. They are also littered in most places because they go unnoticed by the waste management workers.
Sea Turtles Killed By Plastic Straws
A new study has suggested that the ingestion of one single piece of plastic straw is enough to choke and kill a sea turtle. Furthermore, researchers have also discovered that there are 1 out of 5 chances of a sea turtle dying because of ingesting a straw. To add to this harrowing reality, the plastic pollution in ocean bodies has also been increasing at an exponentially fast pace.
The group of researchers stated that the young turtles might be at more risk of dying due to the exposure of any plastic compared to the adult turtles. According to the study, almost 50% of sea turtles across the globe have ingested plastic. This estimate has increased to over 90% among the younger turtles near the Brazilian coast.
The authors of the study have been scrutinizing the post mortem reports as well as the stranding records of animals related to the sea turtles near Queensland. Through this, they will be able to analyze the exposure and its impact on the species better. Finally, they reached the conclusion that any animal that has already ingested over 200 plastic waste pieces is sure to die.
Research On Sea Turtle Mortality
The research on sea turtles has further indicated that even if a marine animal consumes 14 plastic pieces, it has a 50% possibility of dying. Furthermore, ingesting just 1 piece of plastic will give them 22% mortality chances. The researchers have also stated that consuming harder pieces of plastic causes internal injuries to marine animals that most often lead to death.
Additionally, the research team has deduced that juvenile turtles have been taking in much more plastic compared to adults. Approximately 54% of the post-hatchling turtles and 23% of the younger ones have ingested 16% more plastic than the adults. The main reason for the unusually high rate of susceptibility of plastic straws and other waste items on sea turtles is because they are mistaken as food by them. As a result, when it is ingested, the plastic does not break down easily. Rather it stays inside the stomach and disrupts the functioning of other organs. Microplastics also get easily ingested by sea animals.
Plastic straws also get disintegrated into smaller pieces over time and turn into microplastics. All these suggest that humans must start becoming more aware of consumption patterns. Major changes must be made in order to protect marine life and reduce plastic pollution.