Despite its name, this gentle giant of the sea isn’t basking in the new diet being served to it. Basking sharks sieve plankton through their huge mouths but, with a mouth of 1 metre in width, it’s difficult not to inadvertently eat other minute particles that filter through at the same time.
The Plight of the Basking Shark
You may have seen the recent news footage where marine biologists described plastic particles found in the stomach of a dead basking shark that had washed up on the Cornish coastline earlier this year.
As the bodies of dead basking sharks usually sink, it was a rare opportunity to investigate its health and diet. Unfortunately, basking sharks can’t discriminate between plankton and microplastics, and this one had swallowed both.
You may also have seen the distressing footage that circulated social media recently of a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose and down its throat. Rescuers had to remove it with some force so that the turtle was able to breathe and feed properly again.
This is a situation that is, unfortunately, all too common for The Leatherback Trust, who strives to rescue turtles from starvation after they’ve mistakenly consumed plastic bags that they’ve confused for being jellyfish.
And we’ve all seen images of suffering birds with plastic rings from canned drinks packaging caught around their necks so it’s not just marine wildlife that is at risk from our rubbish.
Greenpeace scientists are sampling and testing the waters to discover the amount and types of plastic found in certain areas. So far, the results are not good, with plastics of some description or other found in every sample taken.
The Result of Our Plastic Refuse
We use and throw away plastic every day without even thinking about it but did you ever wonder what happens to our waste?
Despite many people’s efforts to recycle their plastic waste, 8 million tonnes of plastic is still discarded into our oceans each year. As plastic doesn’t decompose, it continues to fill and pollute the water, harm wildlife and litter the beaches.
What You Can Do
Having reported on this tragic and unsettling story, Sky put together the Sky Ocean Rescue project that highlights the issues and advises you on how you can help and get involved.
Their mantra of ‘working together to protect our oceans‘ is a lot easier to do than you may think.
The Sky Ocean Rescue team challenged their employees to a 2-week plastic challenge to see if they could go completely plastic-free and how easy it was to find alternatives. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as hard as they thought, and changes were made easily both at home and work.
What was perhaps not as surprising was the amount of everyday items we all use without even considering the fact they are made from plastic. Have a look around your home and note down the everyday items you use that have a plastic component. Can you find alternatives to substitute them with?
As the Sky team discovered, it’s actually not that hard and here are 5 easy ways to get started:
1. Get Loose
Most fruit and vegetables sit on the supermarket shelves in plastic packaging. Avoid the temptation to pick them up and buy loose fruit and veg instead.
2. That’s Your Last Straw
Plastic straws are one of the most common items found on UK beaches. As you already know, they hurt wildlife so stop using them today; use a metal straw instead.
3. Put a Lid on It
Containers with lids are long-lasting, being a much better alternative to the abundant amounts of cling film we get through each year.
4. Wipe the Slate Clean
Replace wet wipes with flannels. If you really can’t do without them, cut down on the amount you use and don’t flush them down the toilet.
5. Keep It Bottled Up
Use a refillable water bottle. As nearly 36 million plastic bottles are sold in the UK alone each day, it’s an easy choice to stop buying these and use your own bottle instead.
All of us have to take at least some responsibility and play a small part in helping to curb this problem and stop it from getting worse. None of us is guilt-free in the plight of our oceans, even if unknowingly contributing to the mess that now needs clearing.
Here are some other tips to go plastic free:
- Opt for a reusable shopping bag instead of new plastic bags
- Buy cotton buds that have cardboard stems instead of plastic ones
- Give up plastic cutlery
- Take your own travel mug with you when you visit a coffee shop
- Avoid products that contain microbeads. These are tiny plastic balls that are found in body scrubs, toothpaste and face washes
- Switch plastic cups to paper ones in the office
- Use a filter tap instead of plastic water coolers at work
Get Involved — Take the Plastic Challenge
Feeling inspired? Want to help protect the oceans? Start saving marine and other wildlife today when you take part in the Plastic Challenge! Let us know how you get on in the comments below.