The Mississippi River flows through ten states before draining into the Gulf of Mexico. Both increasing ocean temperatures and pollution are known culprits. Plastics travel extremely far from where they are initially deposited wreak havoc on corals by damaging them and introducing disease (NOAA, 2013). Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Reusable Bags. Retrieved April 23, 2019, from https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2016/11/30/midway-plastic-island-nick-paton-walsh-orig-jql.cnn/video/playlists/pluto-tv-long-form-content/, California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. California is proof of not only the feasibility of plastic bag bans, but also of their effectiveness. Most curbside recycling programs do not allow plastic bags for this reason, and as a result the recycling rate of all of these plastic bags is only 12.3% (Wagner, 2017, p. 4). (2016, November). The truth is that plastic pollution threatens the economic productivity of coral reefs and protecting the health of reefs provides greater economic activity to the local communities using them. Retrieved from https://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-plastic-bag-ban-recycling-0731-biz-20150730-story.html, San Francisco Department of the Environment. Firstly, plastic can block light and oxygen from reaching the coral. In response to this decreased ability to grow, corals reduce the density of their calcified structure, but this leaves them extremely susceptible to erosion (, They also divest more of their energy into producing more calcified structure; however this takes energy away from other processes including reproduction and a lower reproduction rate is detrimental to an already decreasing population (. Adam Chartier, Building and Construction Technology. (2009). While it seems bleak, there is hope. Retrieved from  https://scripps.ucsd.edu/projects/coralreefsystems/about-coral-reefs/value-of-corals/, Stein, J. The effectiveness of coral reefs for coastal hazard risk reduction and adaptation. Simply stating that plastic bans hurt the economy ignores the harm done to coral reefs by plastic pollution and ignores the economic benefit of coral reefs. The Great Barrier Reef, in the seas off the coast of Queensland, Australia, boasts the largest coral reef system in the world. Switching to reusable bags and eliminating the use of single-use plastic bags in the United States prevents any further pollution of coral reefs by plastic bags. Companies such as GreenVetsLA have created a number of jobs in the economy focused on the production of reusable bags created from scrap fabric of the fashion industry, while also employing USA veterans (Hickman, 2013). While no rivers in the United States made it onto the top ten list; the Mississippi River presents a huge opportunity for plastic and other litter to enter the ocean. Despite how remote Midway is, it is covered in plastic and often referred to as a “plastic island” (CNN, 2016).. Rwanda had a very positive result from their ban, but issues with stakeholders, and lack of alternatives and enforcement were major struggles for the nation. Estimates of plastic pollution entering the ocean in the United States alone range from 40,000 to 110,000 metric tons each year (Jambeck et al., 2015, p. 769). Plastic bags that are extremely prevalent in our oceans are made out of this same material. Plastic corporations are diversified enough to withstand single-use plastic bans and have the adaptive capabilities to adjust their market and production with a national ban. Mar 27, 2018. Billions of plastic items were entangled in the reefs. Top Alternatives to Disposable Plastic Shopping Bags. Three major diseases of corals increased when coral was in contact with plastic waste; Skeletal eroding band disease increased 24%, white syndromes increased 17%, and black band disease increased 5% (Lamb et al., 2018, p. 461). Since a plastic grocery bag weighs 5.5 grams and on average a single person uses 300 bags per year, that means the average person is responsible for almost 10 kgs CO, generated through bag production is 2.5 billion kilograms, which is the amount of CO. produced by 500,000 passenger cars in a year. While corals are facing many threats out of our individual control (such as ocean acidification and the effects of climate change), the changes we can make to reduce local pressures on coral reefs will help them become more resilient to other threats. Pollution can smother coral reefs, lower water quality, and make corals more susceptible to disease C oral reefs need clean, clear water to survive. Making sure that the public is educated on the impact that the heedless use of plastic has on coral reef is essential, but just as important is providing them with other options so they are not inconvenienced. Environmental Science & Technology 51 (21), 12246-12253 doi:10.1021/acs.est.7b02368, Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Since 1980, pH measurements of ocean water have dropped by about .02 units per decade, making our oceans have the same acidity as baking soda (Doney et al, 2009, p. 1). According to the UN Environment, between 60% and 80% of the trash in the ocean is plastic. This argument sets up a false dichotomy between the economic benefits of producing plastics (shopping bags in this case) and any alternative that curtails it. Ocean acidification: The other CO2 problem. Since 1999 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has removed 125 metric tons of plastic from Midway (CNN, 2016). The Mississippi/Atchafalaya River Basin (MARB). They were actively seeking it out as a snack. Coral reefs are under threat from billions of pieces of plastic. Science, 318(5857), 1-7. doi:10.1126/science.1152509, Jambeck, J., Geyer, R., Wilcox, C., Siegler, T., Perryman, M., Andrady, A., . You can help the Green Fins initiative continue to expand globally by donating here. Midway is extremely remote as it is 1,300 miles from the nearest city, Honolulu, Hawaii, and is only inhabited by 40 members of the U.S. These delicate relationships can be affected by different factors. A majority of these states are completely landlocked and hundreds of miles from the coasts; but their connection to the ocean is a danger that not many consider and show why ocean pollution is not just a coastal problem. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/ms-htf/mississippiatchafalaya-river-basin-marb, Environmental Protection Agency. Companies such as Pan Pacific Plastics, Tri Star Plastics, and Command Packaging are all on existing ordinances confirming them as suppliers of reusable bags that meet the standards of being able to be reused at least 125 times, carry 22 or more pounds for more than 125 feet, and be washed at least 100 times (San Francisco Department of the Environment, 2016). Another study found that corals weren’t always ingesting plastic by mistake. Coral reefs are already susceptible to many other threats, such as the effects of climate change. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/GuidanceRegulation/LawsRegulations/ucm531849.htm, Waste Management. In the short term, production cost of reusable bags may lead to higher carbon emissions, the long term effect of reducing plastic usage will offset the initial harm and help save coral from effects of plastic entanglement from debris that never fully breaks down and hangs around killing for decades. It is well known that marine plastic pollution harms ocean life, including many species found … These rivers are all pass through heavily populated cities and towns and drain into the ocean after collecting litter from these cities (Schmidt et al. Once entangled in the reefs, these plastics wreak havoc. Single-use carryout bag ban (SB 270). But it turns out that the bacteria found in plastic waste also disturbs this delicate relationship. Weighing an average of 5.5 grams each (Schiller, 2009, para. Additionally, alternatives to other plastic products are constantly being developed, giving hope to a more complete single-use plastic ban in the future. Chicago Tribune. Waste materials dumped on land can transport harmful pathogens out to sea. Meanwhile, some coral reefs covered with black plastic for just one day will greatly affect their health. Almost all plastics, 99% of them, are produced from fossil fuels such as crude oil (Center for International Environmental Law, 2017, p. 1). 3), and about ⅓ of that is absorbed into the ocean when released (Doney, Fabry, Feely, Kleypas, 2009, pg 16). Retrieved from https://static1.squarespace.com/static/54d3a62be4b068e9347ca880/t/5a0237d7652deae895d2df1c/1510094808473/California+Coastal+Cleanup+Data+2010.2016.2017.pdf, Richards, Z., & Beger, M. (2011). The US, thanks to a well-functioning waste management system, only mismanages 2% of its plastic waste. Coral reefs around the world have been in decline for decades and the causes are numerous – from pollution and human-caused destruction to bleaching events that occur when ocean temperatures rise. (2013). To put the amount of plastic waste being generated into perspective, consider just one of the most ubiquitous single-use plastic items in an American’s life; the plastic shopping bag. But because of the sheer amount of plastic trash generated by the average American, 2.58 kg per day, the tiny amount of mismanagement adds up to a large amount of garbage entering marine environments. This land area encompasses 41% of the United States and a total of 15% of North America (EPA, 2016, para. (2019). In this way, plastic pollution poses an even greater threat to coral reefs because plastics are the perfect surface for disease causing microbes to attach to. 16). The fear that banning single use plastics will cause job losses in the plastic business are also unfounded. Since 1980, pH measurements of ocean water have dropped by about .02 units per decade, making our oceans have the same acidity as baking soda (Doney et al, 2009, p. 1). We need to change our behaviour and improve our waste management processes to a level that prevents plastic getting into the oceans or risk losing the very thing that gives us life. Mar 04, 2020. The world’s coral reefs are being sickened by plastic and micro-plastic pollution and debris — everywhere from the Great Barrier Reef to the Caribbean — according to a new study published in the journal Science.. Plastic Bag Recycling and Manufacturing Supports Thousands of Jobs. The claim is that bans on single use plastic shopping bags harm the economy because they threaten the job security of plastic industry workers, hurt the bottom line of stores, and impose an unnecessary cost on consumers (American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA), 2019). If you’ve read Reef-World’s “Introduction to coral reefs,” you’ll know the coral animal is very sensitive and is facing many threats. Your email address will not be published. The conclusion to draw is clear, that the bag ban in California lead to a decrease in the amount of plastic litter that had a chance to become ocean debris. Replacing plastic bags with reusable cloth alternatives, instead of with paper bags or biodegradable bags, solves this issue. A quantification of the standing stock of macro-debris in Majuro lagoon and its effect on hard coral communities. The scientists have some theories around why plastic-contaminated reefs might be more likely to get sick. Tourism is among the most significant sources of marine litter. Laws & regulations – The microbead-free waters act: FAQs. Plus, it’s affecting over 800 marine species. Suppliers of Reusable Checkout Bags – Ordinance effective October 1st, 2012 [PDF file]. They basically tear open the skin of the coral and that can allow an infection from anywhere to start.”, “Corals are animals just like me and you – they become wounded and then infected,” Joleah Lamb – who led the new research – told the guardian. Cambridge Businesses, Residents, and Local Organizations Come Together to Make Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB) Ordinance a Success. Retrieved from https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/2456-2456-ekxxsk/index.html, National Conference of State Legislatures. Retrieved from https://www.theregreview.org/2019/02/13/stein-single-use-plastics-comprehensive-federal-legislation/, United Nations Environment Programme (2018). The amount of these bags being produced is staggering. Retrieved from https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/southflorida/habitats/corals/diseases/, Gieraltowski, L. (2012, December 24). Even if only 2% of the plastic bags Americans use find their way into the ocean, that is still 10,000 tons, or the equivalent of 73 blue whales made of plastic swimming out to sea each year. Plastic pollution hurts coral reefs because fish can get caught in plastic debris and it can cause injuries to coral tissues. What Does Pollution Do To The Great Barrier Reef: Saving The Reef According to the Queensland museum’s site , the functions of a coral reef include protecting coastlines from strong waves and storms, provides habitats for aquatic wildlife, providing nitrogen and other important nutrients for marine food chains, assist in carbon and nitrogen-fixing, and help with nutrient recycling. 8, American Chemistry Council, 2015, para. For plastic bags, this is easy; the alternative is reusable bags. “If microplastic pollution increases on the Great Barrier Reef, corals could be negatively affected as their tiny stomach-cavities become full of indigestible plastic,” Dr Hoogenboom says. ~ Plastic bags are surrounding coral, and spreading disease through coral reefs. In fact, plastic being present significantly increased the chance of corals getting sick. Once dumped into the Gulf of Mexico, plastic waste will entangle in the Flower Garden Banks reefs, and ride the ocean current called the Loop Current eastward down and around Florida and into the Florida Reef. doi:10.1038/ncomms4794, Florida Museum of Natural History. Plastic Bag Bans: Analysis of Economic and Environmental Impacts. Many scientists now believe the very existence of coral reefs may be in jeopardy unless we intensify our efforts to protect them (Frieler et al. Microplastics are tiny fragments of plastic in the environment and are a widespread contaminant in marine ecosystems, particularly in inshore coral reefs. Retrieved April, 2019, from https://www.britannica.com/place/Midway-Islands, Cable News Network (CNN). Coral Reefs: Coral reefs are a type of marine ecosystems. You probably don’t think about plastic pollution as you are brushing your teeth, but hundreds of toothbrushes end up in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands every year. Retrieved from https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/tutorial_corals/coral07_importance.html, Ocean Conservancy. This is a worry when it comes to marine biodiversity. . The study showed when corals encounter plastic, the likelihood of disease outbreak increases from 4% to 89%. In a bag ban situation, customers bring their own reusable bags, so stores do not need to ship enormous amounts of cloth bags to their store beyond the small amounts offered for sale (Bell & Cave, 2011). Not only do the abrasions physically damage coral structures, but the wounds can facilitate the invasion of pathogens (Lamb et al., 2018, p. 462). 1). 1). The United States already has examples of plastic bag regulation that have been adopted at the state level. (2017, September). into the ocean has resulted in ocean acidification. The Importance of Coral Reefs. Can I recycle plastic bags in the curbside recycling bin? Coral Reefs Under Rapid Climate Change and Ocean Acidification. We recognize that the provision of reusable bags to certain citizens is a big task with financial implications, but by providing reusable bags in tandem with implementing the ban, everybody will have access to reusable options, removing the cost barrier and disincentivizing the start of a black market as in Rwanda. Retrieved from https://www.foodsafety.gov/blog/reusable_bags.html, Hickman, B. In the Asia-Pacific region alone, there are around 11.1 BILLION plastic items entangled on coral reefs. Coral reefs covered by plastic waste for just a few days will make coral reefs bleach and experience death. In other words, there is something dangerously tasty about the chemical compounds in plastic, a development the researchers warned needs to be better understood to prevent further contamination and disease.”. A study conducted in Australia* has shown that coral polyps will catch and ingest plastic particles. These arguments, made mainly by lobbying groups supporting the plastics industry, show clear bias toward protecting the interests of businesspeople, rely on an oversimplification of the complex issues, and do not adequately refute our position that plastics should be banned in order to protect corals. This means that a significant amount of plastic bags are put in landfills or are just discarded into the environment which gives them the potential to become pollution in the oceans. How to Become an Environmental Role Model for your Guests. Bradbury, R. (2007). Plastic has a range of negative effects on coral reefs. 3). The US, thanks to a well-functioning waste management system, only mismanages 2% of its plastic waste. Comparison of Environmental Impact of Plastic, Paper and Cloth Bags. 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