Humans are insanely addicted to plastic. We say this because what other living species happily produces the poison that kills them? Humans produce over 300 million tons of plastic every year and 50 % of it is for single-use. That means that plastic which is used just once but stays back on the planet for at least a couple of hundred years.
Eight million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year. The effects of this on our sea life are beyond the wildest of our imaginations. Most people do not understand the impact of plastic on our lives. They do not understand that plastics and trash found in the oceans can destroy wildlife, beaches, nature preserves and create ‘ocean landfills’. Just Google “Pacific Garbage Patch” and you’ll see what man has done to our oceans.
Image Source: phys.org
What is the big dealabout oceans?
70% of our planet is covered by oceans and 97 % of the earth’s water supply is contained in the oceans. And just in case you didn’t know, all the oceans are one big connected body of water divided into different parts. This means that what happens in one part of the water can quickly spread to another part of the water.
The oceans serve many functions, crucial among them being, regulators of the temperature and weather of the entire planet and the surrounding atmosphere. Oceans absorb incoming solar radiation and store it as heat energy. The moving ocean currents distribute this heat energy around the globe. This helps to heat the land during winter and cools it during summer.
90% of the earth’s oxygen production comes from the oceans. Oxygen is a byproduct of photosynthesis by phytoplankton (single celled sea plants) and algae (multicelled sea plants).
The oceans are home to more than 200,000 living creatures and there is still much of the ocean floor that remains unexplored.
What is plastic doing to marine life
According to the United Nations, at least 800 species worldwide are affected by marine waster and more than 80 percent of that waste is plastic.
Seabirds, fish, turtles and marine mammals are all at the receiving end of this waster. They either become entangled in this waste or ingest plastic debris causing suffocation, starvation, and drowning. The same seafood makes its way to humans as well. Plastic doesn’t decompose for hundreds of years, breaks down into tiny particles and this ends up in the seafood that humans consume.
Image Source: João Vianna
According to a study by Nature magazine, sea turtles that ingest just 14 pieces of plastic have an increased risk of death. Especially young sea turtles, are not selective about what they eat and thus end up becoming easy victims.
Plastic waste is also responsible for the death of a million seabirds every year. Plastic ingestion creates a false feeling that stomachs are full which leads to the birds not eating anymore. This ultimately kills them due to starvation. According to estimates by scientists, 60 percent of all seabird species have eaten pieces of plastic and this is a figure that will rise to 99 percent by 2050.
It is not only big animals and birds that get affected by plastic but plastic in the oceans affects all creatures. Even tiny seahorses that live in coral reefs get affected by plastic.
Image Source: Justin Hofman
Plastic waste also increases the likelihood of the growth of pathogens in the ocean. Scientists have found that corals that are exposed to plastic have an 89 percent chance of contracting disease.
And if all the above was not enough, scientists predict that the combined weight of plastic in oceans will exceed the weight of all the fish in the seas by 2050.
How can hemp help in saving sea life?
The core component that creates plastic is cellulose. Today, most plastic comes from fossil fuels that are unsustainable and not eco-friendly. So, what is the alternative? Hint: Hemp happens to be abundant in cellulose. At the same time, it is sustainable and biodegradable. The answer is hemp plastic. Let us look at some of the benefits of hemp plastic.
Hemp is great raw material for plastic
A core component of plastic is cellulose. Two of the leading sources for cellulose now are wood and cotton. Wood contains 40 per cent cellulose while cotton contains around 90 per cent cellulose. Hemp contains 65 to 75 per cent cellulose. Cotton requires 50 percent more water than hemp to be cultivated and four times more water than water to be processed. Considering the environmental impact, hemp is a clear winner here.
Hemp plastic is biodegradable
Plastic made from fossil fuels takes around 450-1000 years to decompose. This means that the coffee cup you threw away after having a cup of coffee will be around 400 years after you are gone. On the other hand, hemp plastics biodegrade in just 18 months. Hemp plastic is also free from foul chemicals such as BPA and petroleum which are present in regular plastic. The recycling of regular plastic also leaks harmful chemicals into our environment.
Hemp plastic is not toxic
Using hemp plastic, we should create sustainable methods f recycling which will be non-toxic and biodegradable. In this way, even if plastic were to make its way into our oceans, it would be biodegradable. When it comes to single use plastic, hemp could be the ideal replacement.
The impact that hemp plastic can have on our environment is full of possibilities. It is already clear that hemp causes negligible pollution and can definitely reduce the physical pollution that we see in our oceans. Big businesses have to take note. People in general, have to be become more aware about their environment and make the required changes. Otherwise, the day is not far off when we will be choking to death in a pile of our self-created poison.
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