Plastics: from the sea to your table

Plastic is widely used in our daily life, as it is resistant to corrosion by various substances, is a thermal insulator, does not conduct electricity, and, in addition, can be molded into various shapes. Look around you and you will notice the large number of objects made from this material.

Plastic is widely used in our daily life
Plastic is widely used in our daily life

Plastics are difficult to degrade in the environment; therefore, it is a worldwide pollution problem. It is estimated that 280 million tons of plastic are discarded each year, of which between 4.8 and 12.7 million reach the ocean. All this amount of plastic is kept floating on the surface of the water, forming large islands, which favors the accumulation of microalgae that, in turn, serve as food for various marine organisms. However, the organisms that reach these plastic islands can be severely affected by being trapped or ingesting plastic.

Marine currents, as well as temperature and other factors, cause the disintegration of the plastic found on the surface of the sea, leading to the formation of tiny particles called microplastics, whose diameter varies between 1 μm and 5 mm.

There are several studies about the presence of microplastics in surface waters of the ocean, but what is almost not known is what happens in deep waters. Recently, a group of researchers in the United Kingdom showed that at a depth of 2,000 meters there are about 71 particles of microplastics for every cubic meter of seawater, with polyester being the dominant polymer.

In addition, the researchers observed that some organisms can ingest various types of microplastics, although intake varies among species and individuals. This means that microplastics are not only present in the water, but also form part of the diet of various marine species, which causes a flow of these contaminants along the food chain.

Despite being a remote ecosystem, the ocean depths are vulnerable to anthropogenic pollution, with microplastics being another problem for the species in this ecosystem. Therefore, we should be more concerned about reusing or decreasing the consumption of plastics, as they could be part of your food in small quantities.