Unnecessary waste now in food chain

Posted: Tuesday, June 01, 2004

A recent study of ocean water around Great Britain showed that microscopic plastics are building up on the coastline and inside plankton, the tiny water-dwelling organisms at the bottom of the food chain.

Though the study was conducted across the Atlantic, it offers a wake-up call for Americans as well. A plastic-heavy lifestyle, while convenient, is not without consequences.

As human-made garbage floats down waterways into the sea, it breaks down into tiny plastic bits that may be ingested by plankton. If these tiny plastics work their way up the food chain through birds and fish, it's possible that plastic buildup could eventually appear in foods that humans consume. That's not an appealing prospect.

Marine ecologists say it's more than likely that this phenomenon is occurring along American coasts as well, where use of plastic forks, plastic bags, packaging and bottles has become the norm.

While recycling helps, too many of these disposable products are ending up in landfills and waterways and, now, plankton.

As the use of disposable products rises in such developing countries as China and Morocco, this kind of water pollution is likely to get worse. Keeping plastic garbage from blowing into waterways is one solution. But a better solution is to produce less needless waste.

The Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, N.Y.

May 17

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