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Plastic, plastic everywhere…

Model results for global count density of ocean borne plastics in four size classes

We have talked about the problems of single use plastic bags before on this blog, back in June when the UK government announced a charge on all single use plastic bags from large retailers in England as from autumn 2015. But, with Christmas on the horizon with all its attendant shopping for food and presents, we thought now would be a great time to revisit the subject – especially as a study published this week shows that the extent of plastic waste in the world’s oceans is truly staggering. Obviously single use bags are not the sole culprit here, but they are a significant factor, and they don’t stop being a problem after they have been broken up by the action of waves and tides. The study shows that the majority of plastic in the oceans is in the form of microplastics – that is, small particles less than 5mm in size. These microplastics are eaten by smaller marine animals and can then become concentrated in larger fish and other predators that then eat them, causing sickness. Another factor to consider here is that these same, larger fish can then end up in the becoming food for people.

Plastic bags are not just a problem in the ocean. In the United Arab Emirates it is estimated that up to 50% of camels are killed by eating plastic bags and ‘rocks’ of calcified plastic weighing up to 60 kilograms are found in camel stomachs every day. That’s why we’ve put together a classroom activity to encourage people to make and use their own multiple use bags when out shopping. You can the find the ‘Break the Bag Habit Activity‘ on our newly launched Roots & Shoots Abu Dhabi website along with lots of information on what schools in Abu Dhabi are doing to help people, animals and their local environment.

So this Christmas, spare an extra thought for the fish and the camels and take reusable bags with you wherever you go!

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