It is estimated that approximately 80% of the oxygen on earth is produced by Phytoplankton. These microorganisms are pretty important and are the basis of the marine food chain.
So there is quite a lot of it in the ocean and it exists in freshwater as well. It also just so happens to be the same size as microplastic. Or it turns out that microplastic can be as small as phytoplankton cells.
Now this might be a stretch but I wonder how much plankton their is in the ocean vs plastic and vice versa. Scientists are finding microplastics in all kinds of marine animals at this point. So there has to be quite a bit of it in order to have that frequent of an occurrence one would think. It could also be that the microplastics just end up where the baby marine animals graze – but it’s probably not likely a coincidence.
So the question and the topic of this article is: Are we unknowingly eating plastic? I think a good starting point is: Does Plastic Move Up the Food Chain? The short answer is yes.
Zooplankton consume algae, which baby fish consume, and larger fish consume the smaller fish, etc. So if there is just as much plastic as there is plankton then yes, it very likely that plastic is making it’s way up the food chain and onto our plates.
We know that the marine life does not process the plastic once it is consumed. So if you eat seafood you are probably eating plastic. Ok, so just don’t eat seafood right? Well, here’s the thing, the plastic that you see left on the side of the road, in the grass, in fresh bodies of water, etc. It’s having the same effect – meaning these plastics are turning into microplastics – just as they are in the ocean.
For example, let’s say that a farm land has a bunch of plastic laying around in the sun for awhile and no one cleans it up. The same effect that plastic has from the photodegradation process in the ocean will likely occur in the soil. I have a full video on photodegredation below if you would like to learn more about it.
In short, photodegradation is a process where sunlight breaks down plastic into harmful chemicals and microplastics. So cows grazing, for example can consume these small particles of plastic.
This will affect their milk as well as their meat. So, you can’t really avoid it. All we can do at this point, is clean it up, properly dispose of it and come up with a better, more sustainable solution.
So how can you help?
Here are a few ways:
- Whenever you see plastic, pick it up if you can safely do so
- Participate in local clean ups whenever possible
- Reduce your consumption of items that require plastic packaging or that are made of plastic
The main point of writing this article was to open a discussion so that we can all help each other learn how we can fix this issue together. So let me know in the comments below if you have any suggestions for plastic alternatives or give a shout out to local clean up group that regularly cleans up in your area. You can also share this article on social media or with someone who you think will learn from it or be able to contribute some alternatives that can be used in place of plastic.