Plastic pollution and menace: plastic has reached deep seas

#GS3 Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Environmental Impact Assessment.


 

News info:

A fish stall owner in Mangaluru discovered a large plastic bag inside a bulky fish weighing about 10 kgs while preparing its meat. The presence of a plastic bag inside a fish showed that plastic had reached deep seas as the fish must have been caught in trawl fishing. It was a Reef Quad (Muru) fish, about 10 kg in weight and four feet in length.

The menace:

Fishermen were catching more plastic than fish in the seas with the increasing menace of plastic pollution of rivers. Plastic amounts up to 40% of what comes within fishing nets.

Fish normally consume microplastic that toxifies their body and those of human beings that consume them. Abandoned fishing nets in deep seas or ghost nets also contribute to the plastic menace, apart from the large volume of plastic waste disposed of in water bodies.

Facts:

  • Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year, half of which is used to design single-use items such as shopping bags, cups, and straws.
  • According to the IUCN, at least 8 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year.
  • Ocean-based plastic originates mainly from the fishing industry, nautical activities, and aquaculture.
  • Under the influence of UV radiation(solar) wind, currents, and other natural factors, plastic fragments into small particles, termed- Microplastics(particles smaller than 5 mm) or nano plastics (particles smaller than 100 nm).
    • In addition, microbeads, a type of microplastic, are very tiny pieces of manufactured polyethylene plastic that are added as exfoliants in health and beauty products, such as cleansers and toothpaste. These tiny particles easily pass through water filtration systems and end up in the ocean and lakes.

India and its Plastic crisis:

  • Single-use plastics or disposable plastics are commonly used for packaging. Nearly half of the plastics produced in India are single-use plastics.
  • Most cities and towns have not implemented the provisions of the Plastic Waste Management Rules of 2016 or PWR.
    • According to PWR, plastic manufacturers and retail establishments that use plastics are legally bound to collect back plastic waste. This is referred to as ‘extended producers' responsibility’.
    • The rules also mandate the responsibilities of local bodies, gram panchayats, waste generators, and retailers to manage waste.
    • This includes collecting and segregating recyclable plastic, non-recyclable plastic, and other waste separately for processing.
    • But most cities and towns have not implemented these provisions due to the lack of a disciplined system of segregation and recycling.
  • India banned imports of solid plastic waste only in 2019.
  • The government has set an ambitious target of eliminating single-use plastics by 2022.

 

Way Forward:

  1. Knowledge of the full extent of plastic pollution and its impacts would provide policy-makers, manufacturers, and consumers with scientific evidence needed to spearhead appropriate technological, behavioral, and policy solutions.
  2. A majority of plastic waste flows into seas through rivers and the administration could build fence bridges across rivers to prevent all kinds of solid waste from joining the sea.

Source: The HIndu

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