Have you checked to see if the fish you eat has been labeled plastic free? That may be coming soon given the amount of plastics being dumped into the oceans. In fact, at the rate we’re going, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the water than fish (by weight). Fish don’t know the difference between a tasty worm and a bright plastic lid. Unfortunately these plastic items can block their digestive systems resulting in starvation. Plastics can fill up their stomachs leaving little room for real food. Because plastics don’t break down, they can end up in the fish you want to enjoy for dinner.
One recent study by the University of Ghent in Belgium calculated that humans eat up to 11,000 plastic fragments in their seafood each year. The biggest culprits are microbeads, the tiny plastic particles found in facial scrubs, toothpaste, body wash, and other cosmetics and microplastics, tiny sometimes microscopic pieces of plastic. Eight trillion, yes, with a TR, enter the waterways in the U.S. every day. Scientists have found that these substances are like tiny magnets for toxins. That’s a lot of toxins being eaten by fish in our oceans. The fish then absorb them into their tissues. When you eat fish polluted by the toxins, they become part of your body. Fortunately, microbeads are banned here in the U.S. and increasingly around the world.
Pollution in our oceans and waterways was documented as early as the early 70’s and come from uncaptured (countries with no or poor waste management) waste, sewage systems, road run-off and littering. The pollution can be found from the coastlines to remote ocean hotspots where plastics, caught up in ocean currents, are gathered into huge garbage patches that collect on the ocean surface and below. Picture 26,600 Boeing 747 sized containers of plastics entering our waterways every year. It’s not a pretty picture.
Rivers are equally subject to this pollution so river fish can be just as dangerous. In the Hudson River, millions of fibers from the process of aging clothes (like jeans and other denim clothes) pollute the river and the Atlantic Ocean. These fibers harm fish and human.
So what can we do to ensure our fish is safe? We have to get plastics under control.
- Reduce or eliminate single use plastics such as plastic bags, water bottles, straws, cups, utensils, dry cleaning bags, take-out containers, frozen meal containers and any other plastic items that are used once and then discarded.
- Avoid beauty products that contain microbeads. Look for these plastics: polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), or nylon.
- If you must purchase a single use plastic item, make sure it can be recycled. Check out the recycling requirements in your community. Many communities have cut back on the products they recycle.