In the Belly of a Whale

In the Belly of a Whale

How much plastic is being ingested by sea life? 

In April of 1969, an article was published in The Auk that showed the stomach of an albatross containing indigestible plastic particles. Since then, plastic’s impact on our environment has been on our radar and in our global conversations. 

Every time a load of laundry is done in a home or business, it washes microscopic particles of plastic into the ecosystem. These pollutants don’t break down or get filtered out by treatment and filtration processes. And as these wash through our plumbing and into our water supplies, they’re invading our environment. They pass through filtration and are spit out into rivers and streams, and eventually into oceans. 

How much plastic…exactly?

A good question without a good answer. Advances in industry and innovations in manufacturing have led to the production of synthetic materials that are totally and completely foreign to nature. They don’t deteriorate or break down. The number of plastic particles in our oceans can obviously not be counted. Trillions upon trillions and tons upon tons of them. Truckloads full. 

According to the World Economic Forum, a total of 386 marine fish species have been known to have ingested plastic particles. And the higher on the food chain a sea animal is, the more likely it is that plastic can be found in the stomach of that animal. Sharks, tuna, grouper, and whales are known to eat smaller fish. These smaller fish are eating even smaller sea creatures and ingesting tons upon tons of these microscopic pieces of plastic. So the more organisms and fish that something eats, the more pollutants it’s ingesting. The challenge in these realities is that only about 2% of ocean species have been tested for plastic pollution. 

As the research continues into how exactly this plastic is impacting the wildlife that is consuming it, the efforts are continuing to educate people on why good, plastic-free principles are important. The work is also continuing to reduce the outflow of plastic with disruptive solutions and advances in technology that will filter out these microscopic pollutants.