6. World of Waste
We have a problem… A Plastic Problem! #BePlasticWise by joining us on the journey of waste; where it comes from and where it goes! Did you know that all things lead to the ocean?
In our 6th Junior Biologist session, we explore all things plastic, including its life cycle, where it is commonly found, how it ends up in the ocean, and the impact we are having on the environment. We end the day with a direct call to action through our Totes for Turtles project and a Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup!
What we did today:
First, we discovered the life-cycle of everyday plastics, like plastic bags becoming microplastics which find their way into our waters and up into our food chain! Discussing how it not only affects us, but also our animal friends, specifically how plastics affect animals internally and externally.
Photo: Handful of microplastics found on the beach by India Today News
Photo: Plastic bags are a major contributor to the negative impacts of marine animals.
Next up is discussing alternatives to plastic while we make reusable tote bags out of old t-shirts! Trust us, using a reusable bag is significantly better than even using a brown bag. A fun initiative led by the group Totes for Turtles.
Photo: A gyre made our of a current of icebergs. Photography by Nia Power
We'll settle into the big picture impact plastics have on our environment in exploring gyres, ocean patches of garbage and Japanese debris washing up on BC coastlines. The full power of the ocean's currents is apparent when the amount of debris these currents transport is explored.
To wrap up our session, there will be a JBC Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup to take action and ensure there is less plastic on our coastline! Taking a hands on approach to the issues addressed will inspire a shift in how we perceive the impacts of our daily habits.
Photo: A volunteer takes part in a Great Canadian Cleanup in association with Ocean Wise.
Questions to ask your Junior Biologists
- What is the lifecycle of aplastic bag and why is it harmful? Typically a plastic bag is used for 20 minutes max to transport items from point A to point B. After their job is complete of carry your items, that plastic bag either makes their way into the environment like our oceans where they pose a risk to the animals in that habitat or find themselves in a landfill where they could sit for 1,000 of years or be burned down which emit toxins and chemicals. Statistics state that globally 500 billion to 1 trillion bags are consumed each year. This vast amount of plastic bag usage makes their lack of sustainable disposable a hot topic for conversation in the scientific community.
- What are microplastics? Microplastics are defined as small pieces of plastic that measure 5mm or less across. They are the broken up bits of plastics that weather or erode over time due to being exposed to the environmental elements. The impact of these microplastics is quite substantial in terms of causing destress, illness and even death for animals. An occurrence that is particularly apparent in marine animals and birds through cases of ingesting microplastics. There have been reports of albatrosses with bellies full of bits of plastic, thus making them feel “full” but in actuality they are in need of nutrients. Additionally, the microplastics can absorb toxins and can carry said toxins into the bodies of the animals that ingest them.
- How do microplastics affect humans? Unfortunately, as animals such as fish ingest microplastics, that means that those plastics and the toxins they carry enter the food chain. This occurs by either a fish consuming microplastics when confusing it for food and then later that fish is caught by a fisherman who provides it to a store for purchase. Another way microplastics enter the food chain is if a fish that consumed plastic is then consumed themselves by a bigger fish who then gets caught in a fisherman’s net. That plastic in the first fish does not biodegrade like wood or food, therefore it remains present as it moves up the food chain.
- How do plastics affect whales? Look at the comparison between the appearance of krill and microplastics. You will notice that they are incredible similar looking- well whales can’t distinguish the difference.Whales and fellow filter feeders are in danger of ingesting mass amounts of microplastics. Moreover, there have been accounts of whales being found dead with stomachs full of plastic in their full forms. In their original or broken up into miniscule pieces; plastics have a major impact on the well-beings of whales.
- How do plastics affect birds? Similarly to how other animals experience bellies “full” of plastics, birds have shown some disturbing side-effects of plastics consumption. These effects have been particularly evident in the cases of Laysan albatrosses. Scientists have taken not to the offspring of Laysan albatrosses who have eaten plastics and studies have shown traces of lead of the deceased chicks. Additionally, as the chick matures there has been instances of “droopwing” in which the chick is incapable of holding their wings tucked into their bodies. It is believed that lead is one of the toxins being absorbed and released by plastics which affect the nervous system.
- What is a gyre? A gyre in the ocean is essentially a type of "conveyor belt" that is a large current system in certain points in the ocean. The "conveyor belt" aids in regulating temperature and nutrient flow in the ocean to keep it healthy. However, as plastic and debris float and accumulate into a gyre, it creates a type of plastic soup. This occurence formulates an area called a garbage patch. As it swirls garbage, it begins to trap it closer to its center, thus breaking up the plastic further. An example of this is the famous Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which has been dubbed one of the world's biggest landfills.
Photo: Indonesia's most famous surfer Dede Suryana catching a wave of trash by surf photographer Zak Noyle
See your Jr. Biologists in action here!
Do you have any questions for the Club Volunteers or our Coordinator, Jordan? Ask away on our Discussion Board!
Use reusable items to replace your one use plastic products to prevent plastics entering the environment. Other examples can be found here.
Start a conversation and an awareness in your community of the negative impacts of plastics.
Join in on a Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup near you!
Recognize the life of everyday plastics after we dispose of them to better understand their impacts.
Define microplastic and explore how they form.
Identify what ways plastic debris negatively affect animals and humans alike.
Discuss solutions for everyday life to limit plastics entering our oceans. And learn how quick and easy it is to do DIY reusable bags.
Understand the bigger impact that plastic waste has upon the earth as a whole.
Inspire to take direct action in local initiatives to contribute to improving our oceans by preventing plastics to pollute the homes of millions marine animals.
Continue to 7. Go With the Flow »
- Are Microplastics in Our Water Becoming a Macroproblem? | National Geographic
- Are You Eating Plastic for Dinner? | Short Film Showcase
- His Epic Message Will Make You Want to Save the World | Short Film Showcase
- How Much Plastic is in the Ocean?
- Kids Take Action Against Ocean Plastic | Short Film Showcase
- Surfing through garbage
- Timeline of plastics lifespan