Plastic is one of the most pervasive and widely used man-made materials on the planet. From shopping bags and coffee cups to chewing gum and cosmetics, it’s now almost impossible to avoid using plastic-based items. One of the biggest reasons why this man-made material has been able to proliferate through-out our everyday lives is its tremendous durability. Yet, such durability makes plastic an absolute nightmare when lost to the environment. Plastics take an exceptionally long time to be broken down through natural processes, with the decomposition of some plastics thought to take centuries (1). Consequently, plastic can now be found in the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe.
Plastic pollution has been an especially well-talked-about issue facing the marine environment. Estimates suggest that there are 5.25 trillion plastic particles globally floating around upon the sea surface (2). When in the ocean, plastics are simply broken-up into smaller and smaller particles, causing immeasurable damage to marine life. Distressing impacts of marine plastic pollution include entanglement, ingestion, and suffocation of marine creatures. However, when large plastics are broken down into smaller particles, effects become more insidious, through blockades of the digestive system, growth inhibition, and absorption of toxins (3).
One of the best ways of combatting global marine plastics is to develop better mechanisms of preventing waste plastics from reaching the ocean. In Sub-Saharan Africa, plastic waste is an immense environmental issue, with only 12% of plastic estimated to be recycled and significant quantities making its way into the marine environment. Blue Globe Innovation is proud to be partnering on the Afri-Plastics Challenge which seeks to develop and scale innovative solutions to plastic mismanagement in Sub-Saharan Africa whilst promoting gender equality and female empowerment. The challenge aims to help communities find ways of minimising plastic reliance whilst developing new methods of plastic management and/or uses for plastic waste.
Innovative thinking is now drastically required to tackle the complex issues facing the ocean. Click the link to learn more about the Afri-Plastic Challenge and become part of generating marine plastic solutions.
Wang, G., Huang, D., Ji, J., Völker, C. & Wurm, F. R. Seawater‐Degradable Polymers—Fighting the Marine Plastic Pollution. Adv. Sci. 8, (2021).
Romera-Castillo, C., Pinto, M., Langer, T. M., Álvarez-Salgado, X. A. & Herndl, G. J. Dissolved organic carbon leaching from plastics stimulates microbial activity in the ocean. Nat. Commun. 9, (2018).
Wright, S. L., Thompson, R. C. & Galloway, T. S. The physical impacts of microplastics on marine organisms: A review. Environ. Pollut. 178, (2013).