Even if you’re doing your best to avoid plastic packaging and creating pollution, it’s inevitable that you’ll receive items in the mail or as gifts that pose environmental hazards. Today we’re going to take a look marine plastic pollution and entanglement hazards. Loops and lengths of cord and packaging can ensnare, and kill, marine animals like birds, whales, seals, turtles and fish. Today’s challenge unpacks what it means to “cut a loop”.
What can I do?
We acknowledge that often you cannot refuse these items as they have a way of just arriving at your door. So, the solution is to “Cut a Loop” – snip open any plastic “loops”. This includes; the handles of a shopping packet or the plastic rings from lids of milk bottles and mayonnaise jars. Cut long lengths of material, elastics, synthetic cord, ribbons, and even packaging tape into smaller pieces before discarding of them. Even if you dispose of your waste properly, these lightweight items can blow out of garbage bins and landfills easily, resulting in marine plastic pollution.
Using a disposable face mask during the Covid-19 pandemic? Is your reusable mask made of synthetic fabric? Remember to cut a loop at the elastics, tie cords and thick hemmed edges of your mask before disposing of it! Masks are fast becoming a major source of marine plastic pollution. Let’s do our part to diminish the entanglement danger they pose while circumstances force us to use them.
In more general terms, you can also help to alleviate the entanglement risk by making sustainable packaging decisions (see Pledge #3), using alternatives to wrap gifts (see Pledge #21), saying no to balloons (Pledge #14) and supporting coastal cleanup initiatives, like the upcoming Trash Bash. Supporting sustainable seafood initiatives is another way to minimise entanglements, as irresponsibly discarded fishing gear is also a massive hazard to sea life.
Why should I cut a loop?
Simply put, more than 700 marine species are known to be at risk of entanglement by plastic pollution, resulting in millions of animal deaths a year. All 7 species of endangered turtles, 54% of all whales and dolphins, 114 types of fish, 56% of all seabird species, and even obscure animals like horseshoe crabs and duck-billed platypuses are being entangled, strangled and killed by our marine plastic pollution.
Myth-busting: Fishing gear is the main culprit
Naysayers of sustainable living often like to point out that the problem of ocean plastic pollution is actually due to lost and abandoned fishing gear. “Ghost gear” is the nets and lines that continue to catch and kill animals while they drift the seas. While it is true that this type of pollution has an enormous negative impact on the ocean ecosystem, it is still not the main contributor to the marine plastic pollution crisis. It should not be used as an excuse for inaction in our daily lives. Fishing gear makes up about 10% of the plastic pollution in our oceans, but because it is specifically designed to float, ensnare and avoid corrosion. Therefore, it does cause proportionally more harm than day-to-day plastic. However, it’s that 90% of other plastic that is still the most critical issue for us to tackle.
Who can I follow?
The wildlife management team in the V&A Waterfront do some pretty epic disentanglement work! You can follow them on the Two Oceans Aquarium and Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation’s social media.