It is likely that you saw at least one dramatic picture of a marine animal trapped in some form of plastic waste, from dolphins stuck in six-pack rings to turtles with malformed shells. A new study suggests that plastic pollution may be even more dangerous than it was previously thought and severe consequences could impact the global ecosystem.
Sea bacteria called Prochlorococcus produce up to 10% of the oxygen we breathe. The study argues that the chemical residue released in the water by plastic waste can harm this bacteria at a genetic level, slowing down the growth rate and endangering one of the most valuable sources of air.
The same bacteria play an essential role as a basic layer in the marine food web. One of the researchers who were a part of the study noted that there is much to learn from analyzing relevant microbial groups, which are very sensitive to plastic pollution.
Plastic waste kills valuable, oxygen-producing bacteria
The research was conducted in a specialized lab, but the results which were obtained hint towards a grim future. Plastic pollution has to be reduced at a global level if we don’t want to endure disastrous consequences.
According to official statistics, less than 20% of plastic is recycled at a global level. Almost one million plastic bottles filled with various drinks are sold every minute around the world. And the amount of plastic produced in one decade, from 2000 to 2010, was beyond the total amount produced during the 20th century.
As we can see, the numbers are quite bad. Consequences are already visible in some places of the world. For example, in the North Pacific Central Gyre, the mass of plastic found in the water is up to bigger in comparison to the amount of plankton. While many countries are working on new strategies against global warming, it is essential to include plastic pollution in the equation, as more can be done to mitigate the environmental damage.