Why our plastic consumption is also a conservation issue.

Last week (24th of October) a green turtle was found dead on the costs of Hong Kong. It wouldn’t be an issue – what with natural life cycles – except for these two points: 1. Green turtles are listed as endangered species by the IUCN (the International Union for Conservation of Nature) and 2. The contents of its stomach consisted of nylon rope and plastic bags.  Voila!  Plastic. This is not good.

Yummy stuff found in green turtle’s stomach recently found dead in Hong Kong. Picture by Mandy Wong

There are seven species of turtles that had once been happily swimming in the oceans; (Loggerhead , Green turtle, Leatherback, Hawksbill, Kemp’s ridley, Olive ridley and Flatback). All of them are in danger and all seven species are known to be suffering the impacts of marine debris – namely plastic debris. The impact of plastic on marine life has undergone research by universities and NGOs for the past few decades with notable attention on turtles. Ingestion and entanglement are the most evident problems, but it is also known that plastic has an impact on nesting areas and ecosystems.

As a junior conservationist and plastic pollution researcher it has become obvious to me that the problem with plastic consumption is not only cultural and environmental, but also one of conservation. Take this turtle found in China – an endangered species – found dead because of plastic ingestion. It is clear that turtles mistake plastics as food sources and die as a consequence. So the conservation connection is clear: marine plastics are negatively effecting endangered species.

We humans live our lives on convenience, so we buy single-use plastics bags, water bottles and much more we don’t even waste our time checking labels in cosmetics or toiletries for plastic. Plastic goes to landfill sites and eventually finds its way to terrestrial and marine environments, putting animals at risk including endangered species.

However, I understand some people, including others environmentalists and conservationists may not have come to this realisation. Plastic pollution is so ubiquitous and it is so deep-rooted in our day-to-day lives that the connection isn’t necessarily obvious. This problem is global, and the idea that your own actions are making it worse might sound like nonsense, but it isn’t. Think of how much plastic you have personally disposed of in the last month alone, now multiply that by 742.5 million (the population of Europe). You may start questioning the consequences of your own actions when set in the context of other people’s. This is something to be concerned about, particularly as someone who is supposed to care about the environment.

And this is the problem with plastic.


For more information:

Body of green turtle killed by marine litter found in Hong Kong

Information About Sea Turtles

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