What are the consequences if we throw away plastic waste, and what is the effect on coral reefs? The majority of the fishing gear in this study (over 95% of it) was made of plastic, non-biodegradable material (p. 1109). Coral reefs provide vital fisheries and coastal defense, and they urgently need protection from the damaging effects of plastic waste. Rwanda had a very positive result from their ban, but issues with stakeholders, and lack of alternatives and enforcement were major struggles for the nation. This system yielded positive results in Cambridge, MA and avoided the problems that were encountered by Rwanda. A study shows that overall likelihood of disease in corals increases from 4% instance of disease in reefs without plastic to 89% in the presence of plastic debris (Lamb et al., 2018, p. 460). Not only do the abrasions physically damage coral structures, but the wounds can facilitate the invasion of pathogens, In this way, plastic pollution poses an even greater threat to coral reefs because plastics are the perfect surface for disease causing microbes to attach to. These arguments, made mainly by lobbying groups supporting the plastics industry, show clear bias toward protecting the interests of businesspeople, rely on an oversimplification of the complex issues, and do not adequately refute our position that plastics should be banned in order to protect corals. The effect on the lower class and elderly was taken into account and the city worked to solve the issue surrounding the accessibility of reusable bags for elderly and low income families by collecting and distributing over 8000 bags to families and individuals who needed them (Cambridge Department of Public Works, 2016). Here’s a quick look at the findings of a recent study published in the journal Science (Lamb et. To put the amount of plastic waste being generated into perspective, consider just one of the most ubiquitous single-use plastic items in an American’s life; the plastic shopping bag. While it seems bleak, there is hope. Lamb et al. Retrieved from https://timeforchange.org/plastic-bags-and-plastic-bottles-CO2-emissions, Ruiz, A. Retrieved from https://www.bagtheban.com/learn-the-facts/jobs-and-economy/, Ballesteros, L., Matthews, J., & Hoeksema, B. Once entangled in the reefs, these plastics wreak havoc. Tourism is among the most significant sources of marine litter. Everyone has the choice to refuse single-use plastics, reduce their plastic usage, reuse plastic items as much as possible and recycle. There are some economic arguments against plastic bag bans, but alternatives to plastic bags like bags made of cotton, canvas, jute and even woven baskets are all readily available and are much safer for coral reefs (Evans, 2018, para. The Green Fins Code of Conduct helps dive operators reduce their negative environmental impact on coral reefs by taking actions such as reducing their plastic use. Proposal to mitigate the effects of the beef industry on global warming, Recommendations for Improving the Delisting of Species under the Endangered Species Act, Roads and Amphibians: An Issue in Conservation and Policy. Plastic Waste Associated With Disease on Coral Reefs. Making sure that the public is educated on the impact that the heedless use of plastic has on coral reef is essential, but just as important is providing them with other options so they are not inconvenienced. Plastic pollution in the ocean causes immense harm to coral reefs and a world without coral is a sad one; they contribute a huge amount to the economy, protect shorelines, and are some of the most biodiverse ecosystems. These rivers are all pass through heavily populated cities and towns and drain into the ocean after collecting litter from these cities (Schmidt et al. Retrieved from https://www.cambridgema.gov/theworks/newsandevents/news/detail.aspx?path=/sitecore/content/home/theworks/newsandevents/news/2016/08/byob120days, Center for International Environmental Law. Reusable Bags. How to Become an Environmental Role Model for your Guests. 3), the plastic bags used by the United States weigh around 500,000 tons. [PDF file] Retrieved from https://energycenter.org/sites/default/files/Plastic-Bag-Ban-Web-Version-10-22-13-CK.pdf, Evans, D. (2008, February 17). The world’s coral reefs are being sickened by plastic and micro-plastic pollution and debris — everywhere from the Great Barrier Reef to the Caribbean — according to a new study published in the journal Science.. Local Threats to Coral Reefs 2017, p. 1). You can help the Green Fins initiative continue to expand globally by donating here. into the ocean has resulted in ocean acidification. Retrieved from https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/report/single-use-plastics-roadmap-sustainability, U.S. Food and Drug Administration. With the average American needing more than 300 shopping bags per year, cloth bags can easily outpace plastic in a short amount of time. The fear that banning single use plastics will cause job losses in the plastic business are also unfounded. (Photo Credit: NOAA) You can do your part to help coral reefs by reducing the amount of trash, especially plastic trash, you produce, disposing of fishing gear properly, and participating in cleanups. Midway is extremely remote as it is 1,300 miles from the nearest city, Honolulu, Hawaii, and is only inhabited by 40 members of the U.S. A majority of these states are completely landlocked and hundreds of miles from the coasts; but their connection to the ocean is a danger that not many consider and show why ocean pollution is not just a coastal problem. Fish and Wildlife Service who stay on the island to protect and monitor its wildlife (Britannica, 2016 ) (Cable News Network [CNN], 2016). [PDF file] Retrieved from http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/globalassets/documents/raise/publications/2014/environment/831.pdf, Britannica. Retrieved from https://www.ciel.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Fueling-Plastics-Fossils-Plastics-Petrochemical-Feedstocks.pdf, Doney, S. C., Fabry, V. J., Feely, R. A., & Kleypas, J. (2016). Commercial and recreational fishing in coral reefs generate $200,000+ per year (EPA, 2018, para. However, we may not be able to enjoy the beauty and benefits of coral reefs for much longer as our plastic trash continues to infiltrate and devastate reefs at alarming rate; systematically poisoning, wounding, and infecting coral communities, leaving stark white skeletons in their place. Plastic Bag Bans: Analysis of Economic and Environmental Impacts. Coral reefs get sick from plastic ... climate change and other pollution. The claim is that bans on single use plastic shopping bags harm the economy because they threaten the job security of plastic industry workers, hurt the bottom line of stores, and impose an unnecessary cost on consumers (American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA), 2019). Switching to reusable bags and eliminating the use of single-use plastic bags in the United States prevents any further pollution of coral reefs by plastic bags. © 2020 Debating Science. Once dumped into the Gulf of Mexico, plastic waste will entangle in the Flower Garden Banks reefs, and ride the ocean current called the Loop Current eastward down and around Florida and into the Florida Reef. Adam Chartier, Building and Construction Technology. Laws & regulations – The microbead-free waters act: FAQs. Reusable bags allow consumers to reduce their plastic consumption, since just a handful of bags can serve an entire household in all their shopping needs. Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. New research shows how submarine groundwater affects coral reef growth. Your email address will not be published. Retrieved from https://www.plasticsmakeitpossible.com/plastics-recycling/how-to-recycle/at-home/can-i-recycle-plastic-bags-in-the-recycling-bin/, American Progressive Bag Alliance. In fact, plastic being present significantly increased the chance of corals getting sick. (2009) Plastic bags and plastic bottles – CO2 emissions during their lifetime. Plastic debris kills several reef species. In response to this decreased ability to grow, corals reduce the density of their calcified structure, but this leaves them extremely susceptible to erosion (, They also divest more of their energy into producing more calcified structure; however this takes energy away from other processes including reproduction and a lower reproduction rate is detrimental to an already decreasing population (. Science, 318(5857), 1-7. doi:10.1126/science.1152509, Jambeck, J., Geyer, R., Wilcox, C., Siegler, T., Perryman, M., Andrady, A., . Even if only 2% of the plastic bags Americans use find their way into the ocean, that is still 10,000 tons, or the equivalent of 73 blue whales made of plastic swimming out to sea each year. Chicago Tribune. Other arguments against plastic bans are largely economic. Black band disease moves across the surface of a coral systematically killing it, leaving a barren white skeleton in its wake, completely wiping out a colony of coral in just months (Florida Museum of Natural History, 2018). (2015, July 30).Plastic bags a headache for recyclers. Ocean acidification is when atmospheric CO, , like that released from plastic production, combines with water molecules to form carbonic acid and subsequently lowers the pH of the ocean water. Required fields are marked *. Pollution can smother coral reefs, lower water quality, and make corals more susceptible to disease C oral reefs need clean, clear water to survive. Threats to coral reefs come from both local and global sources. The coral could be affected in two ways. This tissue loss was caused by the gear abrading the coral as the water pushed it across and around the coral. Each use of a reusable bag lowers its ecological footprint, and well-cared for bags can last for years. These assumptions are not true; for example, money diverted from plastic manufacturing could be used to stimulate new production of biodegradable alternatives. The Mississippi River flows through ten states before draining into the Gulf of Mexico. With the average American needing more than 300 shopping bags per year, cloth bags can easily outpace plastic in a short amount of time. I will come back and visit on my next research project! Since 1980, pH measurements of ocean water have dropped by about .02 units per decade, making our oceans have the same acidity as baking soda (Doney et al, 2009, p. 1). This will effectively stop the use of plastic bags and therefore prevent any more of them from entering the ocean via the U.S.. A study conducted in Australia* has shown that coral polyps will catch and ingest plastic particles. . . Estimates of plastic pollution entering the ocean in the United States alone range from 40,000 to 110,000 metric tons each year (Jambeck et al., 2015, p. 769). In this way, plastic pollution poses an even greater threat to coral reefs because plastics are the perfect surface for disease causing microbes to attach to. A nationwide ban against plastic bags in the United States, with a plan to eventually ban the top ten single-use plastics, will improve the health and well being of coral reefs. The Florida Reef is the third largest barrier reef in the world and has been in decline for the last four decades due to disease, pollution, and rising ocean temperatures (EPA, 2018, para. Green job markets in the United States are growing and contribute to the growing number of jobs available and can counter the potential job loss in the plastic industry (Hickman, 2013). While corals are facing many threats out of our individual control (such as ocean acidification and the effects of climate change), the changes we can make to reduce local pressures on coral reefs will help them become more resilient to other threats. (2016, November). (2016, September 09). Additionally, alternatives to other plastic products are constantly being developed, giving hope to a more complete single-use plastic ban in the future. (2018). To quote the UN: “Researchers observed coral were not simply mistaking the small plastic particles for food; they were displaying a deliberate feeding response when the plastic floated by. 2). (2017). Plastic bag bans have already been implemented in other parts of the world, as has the distribution of reusable bags. In a study of 338 corals exposed to the plastic fishing gear, 226 of them, or 69% , were physically damaged (p .1110) Of the 226 damaged corals, 62% of them had fresh tissue loss, which is similar to a wound on human skin (p. 1111). Coral reefs are already susceptible to many other threats, such as the effects of climate change. Tern. (2018). Top Alternatives to Disposable Plastic Shopping Bags. . The Great Barrier Reef, in the seas off the coast of Queensland, Australia, boasts the largest coral reef system in the world. Drew Harvell of Cornell University stated. For plastic bags, this is easy; the alternative is reusable bags. Rwanda adopts draft law to ban single-use plastics. They were actively seeking it out as a snack. Waste materials dumped on land can transport harmful pathogens out to sea. Physical damage is caused to corals by marine debris that gets entangled in coral reefs. These emissions can lead to ocean acidification which harms corals as previously mentioned.Production-wise, paper substitutes take more energy and resources to generate than plastic bags (Bell & Cave, 2011). (2013). Tourism can also physically damage the reefs. Plastics travel extremely far from where they are initially deposited wreak havoc on corals by damaging them and introducing disease (NOAA, 2013). Retrieved from https://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/2456-2456-ekxxsk/index.html, National Conference of State Legislatures. Plastic bags that are extremely prevalent in our oceans are made out of this same material. coral in the Florida Reef, leaving a graveyard of skeletons in its wake (Florida Museum of Natural History, 2018, p. 1). (2016). (2019, February 13). Science (New York, N.Y.), 359(6374), 460–462. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 135, 1107-1116. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2018.08.033, Bell, K., & Cave, S. (2011). Retrieved from https://static1.squarespace.com/static/54d3a62be4b068e9347ca880/t/5a0237d7652deae895d2df1c/1510094808473/California+Coastal+Cleanup+Data+2010.2016.2017.pdf, Richards, Z., & Beger, M. (2011). A. Retrieved April 23, 2019, from https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2016/11/30/midway-plastic-island-nick-paton-walsh-orig-jql.cnn/video/playlists/pluto-tv-long-form-content/, California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. 31-33). Coral and the inhabitants that live within the reefs struggle to operate normally in … According to the UN Environment, between 60% and 80% of the trash in the ocean is plastic. Reef-World – the international coordinator of Green Fins – is always grateful for any donations to support its work to make sustainable diving the social norm and protect coral reefs for future generations. Three major diseases of corals increased when coral was in contact with plastic waste; Skeletal eroding band disease increased 24%, white syndromes increased 17%, and black band disease increased 5% (Lamb et al., 2018, p. 461). pollution edit: Fishing and tourism can also affect coral reefs. Bacteria is abundant in the water and when the coral is abraded, pathogens might be able to enter the coral. These conflicts could have completely unraveled the whole project. The effectiveness of coral reefs for coastal hazard risk reduction and adaptation. (2013, October 23). This massive reef, visible from space encompasses over 100,000 square miles of the Coral Sea hosting an impressive group of 900 islands and almost 3000 individual reefs. Single-use plastics: A roadmap for sustainability [PDF file]. The damage caused to coral reefs by plastic bags could be reduced by the implementation of a nation-wide ban on plastic bags in the United States along with the distribution of reusable cloth bags to low income persons. Single-use plastic production releases chemicals that damage corals and the plastics themselves cause disease and physical harm to corals. California is proof of not only the feasibility of plastic bag bans, but also of their effectiveness. Bans like the one that is working in California should be expanded and adopted by the country as a whole. Without coral reefs economies based in tourism and marine fisheries would suffer greatly and have no easy alternatives to makeup for the deficit. “The likelihood of disease increases from 4 percent to 89 percent when corals are in contact with plastic,” researchers reported in the journal Science. Even if only 2% of the plastic bags Americans use find their way into the ocean, that is still 10,000 tons, or the equivalent of 73 blue whales made of plastic swimming out to sea each year. It is well known that marine plastic pollution harms ocean life, including many species found … Once entangled in the reefs, these plastics wreak havoc. This argument sets up a false dichotomy between the economic benefits of producing plastics (shopping bags in this case) and any alternative that curtails it. Additionally, a number of plastic bag suppliers are also producers and suppliers of reusable bags (Hickman, 2013). While cloth bags also have a production cost; fabric needs to be made etc. The Importance of Coral Reefs. I really found this to much informatics. Recycling plants are better equipped to recycle hard plastic items such as drink bottles, but the film-like plastic of shopping bags tend to clog the machines that sort and process recyclables (Ruiz, 2015, para. This preemptive action makes reducing the amount of plastic bags that can enter the ocean and destroy coral reefs a viable course of action for everyone. 1). An increased CO2 level in the water can reduce the growth of coral through calcification by up to 40% (Hoegh-Guldberg et al., 2007 p. 1). The plastic bag ban will take a big step towards stemming the damage done to coral, but this proposal will not be popular with the public unless there are viable alternatives to cover the gap. Midway, a plastic island. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from http://sfenvironment.org/sites/default/files/fliers/files/sfe_zw_vendors_reusable_checkout_bags.pdf, Schiller, A. We’ve all seen the photos of supermarket shopping bags littering marine environments many miles away. Ocean currents carried these plastics thousands of miles to the Midway islands and through the coral reefs that surround them. Even remote reef … Meanwhile, some coral reefs covered with black plastic for just one day will greatly affect their health. By removing certain fish species the health of the reef can be damaged. The United States already has examples of plastic bag regulation that have been adopted at the state level. American Chemistry Council. While no rivers in the United States made it onto the top ten list; the Mississippi River presents a huge opportunity for plastic and other litter to enter the ocean. The United States and its territories are home to several coral reef systems in Florida, Puerto Rico, The U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii, Pacific Islands, and the Garden Flower Banks offshore of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico (Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], 2018, para. Course Blog of Junior Year Writing in the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. . Plastic companies have such a high demand to meet that their production factories are constantly running to produce product. Plastic pollution harms wildlife and communities. There’s a lot of talk about the harm these plastics are doing to the oceans generally… but what about coral reefs, specifically? A cloth bag must be used 171 times (Bell & Cave, 2011, p. 6) to equal out the environmental impact of a plastic bag, but a well-made and cared for cloth bag is easily reused that many times. ~ Plastic bags are surrounding coral, and spreading disease through coral reefs. Retrieved from, https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/tutorial_corals/coral07_importance.html. Marine debris such as lost and abandoned plastic fishing gear has been well documented as causing physical damage to corals. Pollution and coral damage caused by derelict fishing gear on coral reefs around Koh Tao, Gulf of Thailand. Billions of plastic items were entangled in the reefs. Both increasing ocean temperatures and pollution are known culprits. A study showed that ten major rivers contribute to the majority of trash in the ocean. Suppliers of Reusable Checkout Bags – Ordinance effective October 1st, 2012 [PDF file]. They also take up more space while shipping and therefore cause more carbon emissions during transport as compared to plastic bags (Bell & Cave, 2011). Can I recycle plastic bags in the curbside recycling bin? ; most cloth bags are already made of repurposed bags and recycled fabrics (Bell & Cave, 2011). The plastics carry these microbes with them through the aquatic environment and can end up settling in ecosystems such as coral reefs. What is the Loop Current? The Importance of Coral Reefs. They also have this ability to scrape across corals and abrade them or catch and break off branching coral structures. 5). Yet, even our behaviour at home can help protect coral reefs from harm. Since 1999 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has removed 125 metric tons of plastic from Midway (CNN, 2016). Retrieved from https://scripps.ucsd.edu/projects/coralreefsystems/about-coral-reefs/value-of-corals/, Stein, J. They physically damage corals and abrade them, creating open wounds. The absorption of CO2 into the ocean has resulted in ocean acidification. New research published on January 25 in Science estimates the amount of plastic in coral reefs and the effect this pollution has on reef health. When sediment and other pollutants enter the water, they smother coral reefs, speed the … The plastic could be making the corals sick because of a variety of reasons, Lamb tells The Verge. When placed in an environment of concentrated plastic waste, the corals ingested the plastic particles which were found deep within the coral polyp gut cavity wrapped in digestive tissue. The plastics carry these microbes with them through the aquatic environment and can end up settling in ecosystems such as coral reefs. (2017). in November of 2016, California enacted a ban that prohibits most grocery, retail, and convenience stores from offering customers plastic bags that are designed for a single use (California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, 2018, para. Due to lack of alternatives as well as lack of enforcement of the ban, citizens illegally brought plastic bags in from other nations and sold them on the black market (UNEP, 2018 p. 61). Plastic is also thought to promote the growth of … Retrieved from http://www.ncsl.org/research/environment-and-natural-resources/plastic-bag-legislation.aspx, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 1). al. Retrieved from https://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-plastic-bag-ban-recycling-0731-biz-20150730-story.html, San Francisco Department of the Environment. In a bag ban situation, customers bring their own reusable bags, so stores do not need to ship enormous amounts of cloth bags to their store beyond the small amounts offered for sale (Bell & Cave, 2011). 1). Marine debris such as lost and abandoned plastic fishing gear has been well documented as causing physical damage to corals. These are two things which corals need to survive. Banning plastic bags and encouraging the use of reusable bags nationwide is the best way to protect coral reefs like the Garden Flower Banks. (2016). doi:10.1038/ncomms4794, Florida Museum of Natural History. Coral reefs and their dependent economy do not have this same flexibility. Retrieved from https://www.theregreview.org/2019/02/13/stein-single-use-plastics-comprehensive-federal-legislation/, United Nations Environment Programme (2018). (2019). Once entangled in the reefs, these plastics wreak havoc. Hawaii alone houses 60%, over 140,000 acres, of the United States’ coral reefs and is estimated to be worth over $9 billion and contribute several hundred millions of dollars to the economy per year. In the short term, production cost of reusable bags may lead to higher carbon emissions, the long term effect of reducing plastic usage will offset the initial harm and help save coral from effects of plastic entanglement from debris that never fully breaks down and hangs around killing for decades. (2017, September). They physically damage corals and abrade them, creating open wounds. 8,000 is a lot of bags for just one city and based upon this number, the amount of bags that would have to be provided to the rest of the country would be pretty big. America’s Coral Reefs. Estimates of plastic pollution entering the ocean in the United States alone range from 40,000 to 110,000 metric tons each year (Jambeck et al., 2015, p. 769). Value of corals. Impacts from land-based sources of pollution—including coastal development, deforestation, agricultural runoff, and oil and chemical spills—can impede coral growth and reproduction, disrupt overall ecological function, and cause disease and mortality in sensitive species. Retrieved from https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/tutorial_corals/coral07_importance.html, Ocean Conservancy. I don’t believe that the coral reefs of the world can take much more pressure and while temperature change is inevitable, the ridiculous path of plastic waste from consumer to the oceans is not. We recognize that the provision of reusable bags to certain citizens is a big task with financial implications, but by providing reusable bags in tandem with implementing the ban, everybody will have access to reusable options, removing the cost barrier and disincentivizing the start of a black market as in Rwanda. It’s a stark reminder that, even if you live nowhere near a coral reef, your plastic waste could wash up on a remote shore and harm the marine life there. 16). Companies such as GreenVetsLA have created a number of jobs in the economy focused on the production of reusable bags created from scrap fabric of the fashion industry, while also employing USA veterans (Hickman, 2013). Single-use plastics need comprehensive federal legislation. Retrieved from http://www.wmnorthwest.com/guidelines/plasticvspaper.htm, It is what i was searching for.I would like to suggest you that please keep sharing such type of info, Wow, What a Excellent post. 3), and about ⅓ of that is absorbed into the ocean when released (Doney, Fabry, Feely, Kleypas, 2009, pg 16). The new Green Fins posters help divers and dive operators alike take small steps to reducing their intake of single-use plastics. In Cambridge, single use plastic bags have been banned. Nutrient pollution and ocean warming negatively affect early life of corals. Derelict (abandoned) fishing nets and other gear—often called "ghost nets" because they still catch fish and other marine life despite being abandoned—can entangle and kill reef organisms and break or damage reefs. The argument requires the assumptions that money not spent producing plastics is lost completely, and money spent pursuing the alternatives is a total waste. (2017). (2015, August 28). State plastic and paper bag legislation. They form when filter-feeding polyps create exoskeletons of calcium carbonate, a type of limestone. Coral reefs are formed by tiny animals that live in association with microscopic algae called zooxanthellae. noise pollution and coral reefs Noise Pollution does not only affect the colossal whales; the effects of excessive sound reach the oceans smaller creatures, living in coral reefs, as well. 3), the plastic bags used by the United States weigh around 500,000 tons. 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( 2012, December 24 ) Drew Harvell at Cornell to refuse single-use plastics: a for. This same flexibility K., & Petrochemical Feedstocks [ PDF file ] make!