The consumption and production of plastic goods have caused damage and destruction in many ways to the environment. Specifically, marine ecosystems and animals in these habitats suffer from the tons of plastic waste discarded into the oceans each year.
In Indonesia, the effects of plastic waste are reflected in a recent discovery on its shores. Washed ashore in the Southeast Sulawesi Province was a 31-foot sperm whale whose stomach showed ingestion of more than 100 plastic items.
The carcass was found by Wakatobi National Park rescuers after officials were notified that nearby villagers were disturbing the remains. When the carcass was retrieved, researchers from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) found a plastic waste mixture weighing around 13 pounds in the animal’s stomach. This mixture contained 115 plastic cups, 4 plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, 2 flip flops, a nylon sack, and over 1000 other miscellaneous pieces of plastic.
Though researchers were able to identify the objects in the animal, due to the whale’s advanced state of decay, they were unable to determine the actual cause of death. Not enough information was provided to confirm whether or not this death was a result of high consumption of such plastics.
“Although we have not been able to deduce the cause of death, the facts we see are truly awful,” says Dwi Suprapti, the marine species conservation coordinator at WWF Indonesia.
Indonesia has a population of over 260 million people and is the second largest plastic polluter in the world, next to China. According to a study published by in the journal Science, the country generates over three million tons of plastic waste each year and over one million tons of this waste end up in the oceans.
“I’m so sad to hear this,” Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister of maritime affairs said, “It is possible that many other marine animals are also contaminated with plastic waste and this is very dangerous for our lives.”
As of now, Indonesia’s government is taking steps to raise awareness about the effects of plastic consumption. To reduce the use of plastics, some methods, such as informing shops not to provide plastic bags for consumers, have been implemented across the country. Additionally, the government is making efforts to educate the public and schools nationwide in hopes of reducing its current plastic use by 70% by 2025.
Though this task may seem difficult, Pandjaitan said, “This big ambition can be achieved if people learn to understand that plastic waste is a common enemy.” With education and consciousness of how plastic consumption damages the planet, and the persistence to prevent unsustainable practices, the future of this planet, its people, and its creatures can thrive.
[Source: The Associated Press]