When exposed to sunlight, plastic bags photo-degrade into tiny toxic particles which are unrecognizable to the bacteria that convert organic waste into natural compounds. Because they don’t biodegrade, these toxic microplastics make their way into our soil, our water, and ultimately our food supply.
Our oceans include networks of circular currents called gyres. Discarded plas-tics accumulate in the calm, stationary centers of the North Atlantic, North Pacific and Indian Ocean Gyres, giving rise to “islands” of floating trash which break down into a soup of tiny particles. These toxic particles are consumed by many species, including fish, shrimp, and birds. The North Pacific Gyre, known as “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, is reported to be at least twice the size of Texas.
Persistent organic pollutants (POPS), such as pesticide residues and heavy metals, bond with micro-particles from degraded single-use bags and other plastics. Fish ingest these poison-laden particles along with plankton and other food. As big fish eat smaller fish, the concentration of pollutants increases as much as ten-fold, resulting in the contamination of our food supply.
TO DIE FOR
Millions of animals die each year from entanglement and ingestion of our plastic garbage. Plastic bags adrift in the ocean resemble jelly fish and are eaten by sea turtles, tuna and sword-fish. Albatross parents feed colorful bottle caps and other plastic bits to their young, resulting in death. Many cattle die from in-gesting plastic bags that land in grazing pastures. Some Texas ranchers have successfully campaigned for bans on single-use plastic bags.
According to Physicians for Social Responsibility and other experts, chemicals present in plastics such as “bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates” can cause disruption of the endocrine sys-tem, resulting in serious developmental problems in children. Obesity, autism, attention deficit disorder, diabetes–to name a few–have been on the rise for this “plastic” generation. We know that plastic-derived toxins have poisoned our Earth and entered our food chain; now we are beginning to understand how they are contaminating us.
References include: Natural Resources Defense Council, National Geographic Education, 5 Gyres, Earth Policy Institute, Physicians for Social Responsibility, National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, and Plastic Pollution Coalition.