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Plastic Waste Threatens Marine Diversity

Soulskill posted about 5 months ago | from the i-blame-the-schools dept.

Earth 48

Rambo Tribble writes "An article in Current Biology (abstract) details the finding that minute particles of plastic waste are affecting marine worms, potentially having grave impacts on marine biodiversity (PDF) and leading to the accumulation of toxins in marine animals. 'The team found that the tiny bits of plastic, which measure 1mm or smaller, transferred pollutants and additive chemicals — such as flame-retardants — into the guts of lugworms (Arenicola marina). This process results in the chemical reaching the creatures' tissue, causing a range of biological effects such as thermal stress and the inability to consume as much sediment.' Unfortunately, policymakers have routinely treated such wastes as benign. The BBC provides more approachable coverage of the findings."

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48 comments

Such a rubbish article (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45592387)

Plastic helps the economy.....

Reminds me of the time when I visited the US, at the grocery store was asked: paper or plastic, I said plastic, because I was paying by credit card

This just in (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45592425)

Scientist discover things humans do harms the environment. Also in the news water is wet, and politicians lie.

Future research is being devoted to discover why the obvious just isn't that obvious to the scientific community.

You want to reduce polution by 50% globallly, then reduce the number of people by 50% globally other wise all of this research is just self gratification (scientific masterbation) and a waste of time and money.

Re:This just in (2)

liamevo (1358257) | about 5 months ago | (#45593537)

You have to understand the obvious before you can really do anything realistic to help the situation. Always surprises me seeing these types of comments on slashdot.

Re:This just in (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45597579)

Lets just reduce the population to zero then there would be no human contribution to pollution, or idiotic contributions to /. Instead why don't we spend half the amount effort to controlling real pollution that we spend on the non-existent problem of climate change? Then perhaps we could get a handle on this problem and not have so much plastic being dumped into the environment.

Everything Threatens Something (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45592445)

Try it!

__________ threatens _____________ due to Eeeevil Republicans and corporations. The only solution is more ____________ and a ban on _____________.

Re:Everything Threatens Something (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45594663)

Hey Mods, you trolling mother fuckers....suck my dick.

Paper or plastic? (4, Interesting)

KrazyDave (2559307) | about 5 months ago | (#45592511)

In America there are tight regulations of the manufacturing, and transport on top of EPA. When you request a plastic bag, it's clean and it's fate is clean, plus we have profuse kandfill space available that is also tightly managed and regulated.

It is the "emerging" economies led by China and India who dump unregulated waste including heavy metals and other toxins, have dirty-technolgy, and unregulated factories that spew millions of tons of untreated air pollution and who also dump millions of tons of their plastic garbage directly into our oceans.

So you jackass hipsters at Trader Joe's keep using your filthy little burlap bags and thinking that you're making a difference while you turn a blind eye to the ecological atrocities committed by your we-are-the-world brothers.

Re:Paper or plastic? (1, Interesting)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 5 months ago | (#45592755)

Why is this modded -1 Troll? Parent is correct; in the U.S. (and I assume most other developed nations), close to 100% of plastic waste either go into a landfill or is recycled. Amount dumped into the ocean is negligible.

Re:Paper or plastic? (1)

bledri (1283728) | about 5 months ago | (#45599435)

Why is this modded -1 Troll? Parent is correct; in the U.S. (and I assume most other developed nations), close to 100% of plastic waste either go into a landfill or is recycled. Amount dumped into the ocean is negligible.

Because summarizing valid and semi-insightful point by calling people:

... jackass hipsters at Trader Joe's ...

for the intolerable crime of:

using ... burlap bags

Is kindof douchey, but sadly Slashdot does not have a kind of douchey choice for the moderators.

And then there is the point that landfills aren't really an unlimited resource, none of the articles accused the US of anything, plastic bags wash out to sea from storm drains in the US (even if other countries contribute most of the trash.) And finally, what's so funny about peace, love, and understanding? [vimeo.com]

Re: Paper or plastic? (4, Insightful)

xelah (176252) | about 5 months ago | (#45592845)

I bet you still wash clothes made from plastic fibres in an ordinary washing machine, though. Guess where the waste goes...

Unclear Intent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45594363)

I bet you still wash clothes made from plastic fibres in an ordinary washing machine, though. Guess where the waste goes...

The "waste" goes into a sewage treatment plant or an underground septic tank. No fibres, chemicals, or phosphates(regrettably) are dumped into any body of water.

I'm unclear on whether your post is supposed to be mocking sarcasm or a troll. Certainly it is not based in reality.

Re: Paper or plastic? (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | about 5 months ago | (#45594411)

The waste treatment plant? If they aren't doing their job, take it up with them, they certainly are able to filter money out of my wallet

Re:Paper or plastic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45594153)

Classic straw man argument, classy.

Re:Paper or plastic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45594715)

Have you ever helped clean up a river? I have. In the USA. Plenty of trash, year after year.

Yes, China and India have to step it up, and we should teach them about how to improve and lead by example.

Plus, I doubt your statistics about plastic bags. The truth is out there.

Re:Paper or plastic? (2)

JackieBrown (987087) | about 5 months ago | (#45595269)

The rivers and parks are mainly dirty due to people littering, not due to people disposing of their trash properly.

Re:Paper or plastic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45598591)

I've seen bags of trash that were being taken to dumps that were blown onto the side of the road. Is that proper disposal? And as prevalent as litter is, how can you say the "fate is clean"?

Re:Paper or plastic? (2)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about 5 months ago | (#45595075)

When you request a plastic bag, it's clean and it's fate is clean

That's strange because the fate of those plastic bags that I see is usually groups of them wind blown against fencing, or laying in snow banks.

Blaming the pollution problem solely on "emerging" countries is akin to giving permission to be excluded from contributing to the problem. Yes, we have EPA regulations however US companies only adhere to them when:

A) Being out of compliance costs more than playing by the rules
B) When there is enough certainty they will be caught

You can thank the "jackass hipsters" for the air you're breathing now. Back in the '70s, it was they who pushed and pushed for pollution regulation. If they hadn't, the US would still be dumping waste in the Great Lakes and tributaries and you would most likely be breathing the same smog the "emerging" countries are now. Nobody in those countries would dare protest like the hippies did in the US.

Re:Paper or plastic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45595503)

Why is this modded troll? Because it's trolling. Environmentalism isn't a competition, we do it because we'd like to survive, thanks moron.

Re:Paper or plastic? (1)

Tyler Durden (136036) | about 5 months ago | (#45597979)

Although long, this whole article [worldwithoutus.com] is worth a read. This part is relevant...

Just two years earlier, Moore had retired from his wood-furniture-finishing business. A lifelong surfer, his hair still ungrayed, he'd built himself a boat and settled into what he planned to be a stimulating young retirement. Raised by a sailing father and certified as a captain by the U.S. Coast Guard, he started a volunteer marine environmental monitoring group. After his hellish mid-Pacific encounter with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, his group ballooned into what is now the Algita Marine Research Foundation, devoted to confronting the flotsam of a half century, since 90 percent of the junk he was seeing was plastic.

What stunned Charles Moore most was learning where it came from. In 1975, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences had estimated that all oceangoing vessels together dumped 8 million pounds of plastic annually. More recent research showed the world's merchant fleet alone shamelessly tossing around 639,000 plastic containers every day. But littering by all the commercial ships and navies, Moore discovered, amounted to mere polymer crumbs in the ocean compared to what was pouring from the shore.

The real reason that the world's landfills weren't overflowing with plastic, he found, was because most of it ends up in an ocean-fill. After a few years of sampling the North Pacific gyre, Moore concluded that 80 percent of mid-ocean flotsam had originally been discarded on land. It had blown off garbage trucks or out of landfills, spilled from railroad shipping containers and washed down storm drains, sailed down rivers or wafted on the wind, and found its way to this widening gyre.

Re:Paper or plastic? (1)

oDDmON oUT (231200) | about 5 months ago | (#45601505)

Thank you for sharing this.

I worked in the solid waste industry for a few years and know first hand that a "clean fate" in a landfill is the ultimate oxymoron, particularly landfills in less populated areas.

If I had mod points, you'd be +1 in a heartbeat.

Re:Paper or plastic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45598075)

Your toothpaste might contain plastic as well as your other cosmetic dirt removal products. The plastic is used to removing plaque and dead skin cells. After use the particles are flushed to the waste water facilities, not all of them that can handle such pollution. For example, in the Baltic area sea the microscopic plastic contamination has already gone all the way in the food networks.

No-one ever did the research? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45592799)

Dr Browne said:

"But no-one had actually shown whether chemicals could transfer from plastic when they are eaten by animals and accumulate in their bodies and reduce important functions that maintain their health."

And I thought this to be obvious, but apparently no-one ever did the research?

I always cringe when I see some plastic garbage outside and when you try to pick it up, it crumbles into tiny little fragments, sometimes powder-like.
Toxic waste, I consider this.

Re:No-one ever did the research? (1)

wooferhound (546132) | about 5 months ago | (#45593977)

Dr Browne said:

I always cringe when I see some plastic garbage outside and when you try to pick it up, it crumbles into tiny little fragments, sometimes powder-like. Toxic waste, I consider this.

It's "Biodegradable" . . .

Re:No-one ever did the research? (2)

DriveDog (822962) | about 5 months ago | (#45596007)

The idea that we haven't found extraterrestrial civilizations because once they're sufficiently advanced for us to spot, they're sufficiently advanced to destroy themselves in some catastrophic explosion needs modification. Maybe it's just the accumulation of things like microscopic plastic bits, out-of-control planetary heating, mercury contamination, GMO accidents, viral epidemics, ozone destruction, ... such that they disappear in a century after making it into space—long before they have time to make self-sufficient colonies on other planets.

The food chain.. (5, Interesting)

voodoo cheesecake (1071228) | about 5 months ago | (#45592839)

Some may argue that such research is pointless because pollution goes hand in hand with civilization or that we will never be able to clean up what is already out there. I disagree. Understanding how organisms are affected may give valuable insights into how pollution is and will alter the food chain. The article mentions "accumulation of toxins", this is bioaccumulation of not only different sizes and types of microplastics, it is also the bioaccumulation of the plasticizers that leach out as these microplastics degrade in a particular environment over time. Then some of these organisms are eaten by others which results in bioamplification of whatever toxins linger - mainly in fatty tissues. These organisms migrate and here you and I sit at the top of the food chain ready to devour what we assume is safe to eat. Some of the plasticizers - such as bisphenol-A (synthetic estrogen used to harden plastics) and phthalates (used to soften plastics) are well known endocrine disruptors; i.e. they mimic hormones which can alter development of offspring. Wouldn't such biological activity of these contaminants be worth studying - say in the realm of genetics - specifically epigenetics?

Food for though. Do a load of laundry that is all 100% cotton and you end up with quite a few cotton fibers in the dryer's lint filter. Do a similar size load of clothing containing synthetic fibers and notice there is far less in the lint filter and that the fibers are considerably smaller. Do another load of synthetics and filter out all of the water drained from the washing machine and take a look at what wind up in a settling pond (unless there is a storm surge that overloads the sewage system) and eventually to the ocean.

Not only are the toxins from microplastics a concern, but so are the fibers themselves which can block gills and also act as substrates for organisms from one environment to flourish upon, be transported upon and potentially become an invasive species in another environment resulting in loss of resources for the fishing industry rippling through the global economy.

it's only an hypothesis (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45592867)

Anyway, the the article says:
"But no-one had actually shown whether chemicals could transfer from plastic when they are eaten by animals and accumulate in their bodies and reduce important functions that maintain their health."

Re:it's only an hypothesis (3, Informative)

voodoo cheesecake (1071228) | about 5 months ago | (#45593053)

J.P.G.L. Frias, P. Sobral, A.M. Ferreira, Organic pollutants in microplastics from two beaches of the Portuguese coast, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 60, Issue 11, November 2010, Pages 1988-1992, ISSN 0025-326X, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2010.07.030 [doi.org] .
(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X1000336X)
Keywords: Microplastics; PAHs; PCBs; DDTs; Plastic pellets; Portugal

Organic pollutants in microplastics from two beaches of the Portuguese coast

I apologise for referring you to a paywall, but this journal article does show that "chemicals could transfer from plastic when they are eaten by animals and accumulate in their bodies and reduce important functions that maintain their health."

Could or Do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45594649)

I apologise for referring you to a paywall, but this journal article does show that "chemicals could transfer from plastic when they are eaten by animals and accumulate in their bodies and reduce important functions that maintain their health."

I can't read it, due to the pay wall. But, does it say that chemicals could transfer, or does it show that chemicals do transfer. There is a huge "gulf" of difference between these two words.

Re:Could or Do? (1)

voodoo cheesecake (1071228) | about 5 months ago | (#45596699)

This is quite frustrating. The article says "could" all the while pointing to everything that indicates that they "do". The article says that POP's (persistent organic pollutants) have been found in the marine life within the area of the study and that the same POP's were found in higher concentrations to varying degrees in the microplastics analyzed and that these microplastics were found in the tissues of these animals. So, take it as you will. Bon Appetit! PCB's DDT's yum yum!

on the other hand, plastic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45592899)

politicians' purported patronage perverts public service!

I for one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45593069)

welcome our flame-retardant lugworm overlords!

At some point... (2)

Viol8 (599362) | about 5 months ago | (#45593395)

... an organism may evolve that can digest some forms of plastics. Apparently when trees evolved lignin it was millions of years until fungi evolved the ability to digest it which caused it to build up leading to immense forest fires.

If we're lucky something similar will happen to plastics though given there are so many types it might be wishful thinking. Of course if it did happen we might find all our shiny toys suddenly rotting like old italian cars.

Re:At some point... (2)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 5 months ago | (#45594453)

You have the response to this wishful thinking in your very own post

it was millions of years...

It can take a very long time to open up new metabolic pathways.

Re:At some point... (1)

Tyler Durden (136036) | about 5 months ago | (#45597701)

I remember this was covered in the book The World Without Us. If I recall correctly it's not wishful thinking that organisms will evolve that can digest plastics but likely. The lignin that lifeforms were eventually able to digest are actually more complex than our plastics.

One would hope that when that happens the byproducts that are released aren't too toxic to whatever other living things are still around.

KILL THE HUMANS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45593491)

Humans are evil! We must kill ourselves now! I feel soooooooo guilty about my impact on the Earth! Woe is me!

Re:KILL THE HUMANS! (1)

fredrated (639554) | about 5 months ago | (#45593965)

A little early for the mental illness to kick in isn't it? Did you forget to take your meds last night?

Re:KILL THE HUMANS! (2)

wooferhound (546132) | about 5 months ago | (#45594065)

Humans are evil! We must kill ourselves now!

We are killing ourselfs, and we are taking everything else with us . . .

Re:KILL THE HUMANS! (1)

bledri (1283728) | about 5 months ago | (#45599607)

Humans are evil! We must kill ourselves now! I feel soooooooo guilty about my impact on the Earth! Woe is me!

Not evil, just short sighted at times. Maybe a bit unaware and selfish too. But we've come a long way on both counts, so there's hope even if the current trend is to bag on people for the crime of giving a shit.

No problem (1)

PPH (736903) | about 5 months ago | (#45596949)

We are currently developing bacteria that are capable of consuming plastics. Upon release into the environment, this will remediate the plastic pollution problem in no time. Whatcouldpossiblygowrong.

Sorry about your iPhone.

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