Of course I can see why governments are keen to be seen responding to this terrible threat. If you’re as desperately useless as Theresa May’s UK government, for example, it makes perfect sense to try to distract everyone from your incompetence by launching bold anti-plastic initiatives which get you a big thumbs up from national treasures like Sir David Attenborough and which don’t cost the public purse much money.
But I wish they wouldn’t bother. As this article from Inside Sources demonstrates – and it really ought to be required reading for all those bansturbators out there working themselves into a righteous frenzy about just how Medieval they’re going to get on plastic’s ass – these plastic bans, in the West at any rate, are a complete waste of space.
‘Fish prefer plastic to food,’ claimed a paper published in Sciencelast year. It was the environmental horror story du jour.
The billions of tons of plastics that we release into the environment for the most part do not biodegrade. But they do degrade, breaking into ever smaller particles that end up in the oceans. Lönnstedt et al. show that the impacts of these microplastics are multifold (see the Perspective by Rochman). Eurasian perch larvae exposed to microplastics were less active, less responsive to predator cues, more likely to be eaten, and less likely to thrive—preferring to eat plastic rather than their natural prey.
Naturally, this news was seized on by the mainstream media as further proof of the damage man’s selfishness, greed and refusal to amend his lifestyle was causing to the planet.
The study, by Swedish researchers, seemed to confirm everyone’s worst suspicions about plastic pollution of the oceans. Of especial concern in this case were the plastic microbeads used by the cosmetics industry in skincare products. These microbeads have been madeillegal in the U.S. under legislation introduced during the last days of the Obama administration, with the European Union considering a similar ban.