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PLASTICS

Taking initiative to preserve and protect the marine environment

Plastic pollution is a huge problem for ecosystems and human health. Marine species such as seabirds, whales, and fish ingest and become entangled in plastic that enters their ecosystems, leading to death caused by starvation or blockages in the digestive tract. Organisms higher on the food chain, such as humans, may then ingest the plastic by eating other contaminated animals.

Single-Use Plastics

Seaside Sustainability is working hard to reduce plastic waste in our environment by educating about the harmful impacts it has on the health of plants and animals, including humans.

Learn more about single-use plastics, including how it impacts the environment and some of the steps that have been taken around the country to reduce its use.

The Single-Use Consumer Plastic Ban Guide emphasizes the importance of implementing bans on disposable plastics as a first step towards reducing plastic waste and promoting environmentally-friendly alternatives. With the understanding that no two communities are the same, these guidelines seek to provide a number of pointers and resources to help in understanding how to advocate for and achieve a plastic ban.

Are you a business owner interested in participating in a survey about your business’ single-use plastics usage? Take this survey to help us determine how single-use plastics, and their alternatives, are impacting local communities!

Macroplastics

Macroplastics have the potential to break down into microplastics. Here are some ways that Seaside Sustainability is working to reduce their presence in marine environments.

Macroplastic Accumulation in Great Marsh, MA

From February-June 2020, Seaside Sustainability surveyed sections of the Great Marsh in Massachusetts, marking areas in need of plastic removal. This allowed for a scheduled coastal cleanup of 13 areas by Seaside Sustainability and volunteer groups.

The most abundant macroplastics found in the Great Marsh area:

- Beverage bottles            - Shotgun Shells

- Wadding                         - Shoes

- Cigarette Lighters           - Styrofoam

- Tampon Applicators

Drones were programmed to fly autonomously using DJI GISPro software to take photographs of the Great Marsh. These photos were used to determine the amount of debris and macroplastic accumulation in the area by creating orthomosaics and surface models. These findings can help to identify areas that need clean-ups, update environmental laws, and showcase how technology can help improve environmental conditions.

The map provided shows the coast of Massachusetts with a legend indicating specific areas and bodies of water. Clean-ups are indicated with white pins while problem areas that need clean-ups are indicated with orange pins.

Reclaiming the Sea from Marine Debris

Plastic pollution, particularly from single-use plastics, constitutes a significant environmental crisis, with about 50% of plastic production being non-properly disposed, leading to the formation of microplastics in oceans. The "Reclaiming the Sea from Marine Debris" Curriculum addresses this issue by combining hands-on learning and STEM education to inform participants about the impact of marine debris emphasizing the need for behavioral change and promoting the Seabin as both a cleaning tool and an educational instrument.

Microplastics Presentation

As plastics accumulate in the marine environment, they break down into microplastics from direct sun exposure, abrasion from contact with sand and waves, and as a result of the chemicals they absorb. This creates an endless cycle of microplastics being introduced to the marine environment that are difficult to remove. Microplastics have been found in every ocean in the world. The chemical pollutants they absorb can contaminate our drinking water or food sources without us even knowing they were present.

Marine Shrink Wrap Recycling

Shrink wrap is a large source of marine plastic pollution. Every year, hundreds of tons of shrink wrap is thrown away by boat owners and marinas. Seaside Sustainability’s partner Clean Ocean access identified four main options for boat owners to use to protect their boats, with recyclable, re-used shrink wrap being the most eco-friendly. Learn more about marine shrink wrap recycling from the links below.

Monofilament Tubes

Many lines used for fishing require a monofilament, or plastic, fishing line. Broken lines pose threats to many marine plants and animals. They may entangle or strangle shorebirds or marine wildlife that mistake them for food. These lines also can harm boats as they can  get entangled in boat propellers. Because Seaside Sustainability supports the discovery of the ocean, we wanted to make recreational fishing a more sustainable activity. Click the link below to learn more about how we worked towards this goal.

Plastics and Human Health

Over 98% of plastics are made from fossil fuels, involving over 13,000 chemicals in the process with more than 2,300 of them being classified as “chemicals of concern”. These chemicals can leach from plastics, causing significant health risks such as cancer, endocrine disruption, and neurological effects. Exposure occurs through food packaging and ingestion of ever present microplastics which can infiltrate our tissue and organs. Annals of Global Health (2023) reported that Americans spent over $1.5 trillion on health costs related to plastics in 2015. Click the link to explore more about Plastics and Human Health, and the Solutions on the Beyond Plastics Fact Sheet

Beyond Plastics, "Plastics and Human Health", 2023 via www.beyondplastics.org

From Pollution to Sollution

An alarming 11 million metric tons of plastic ends up in the ocean annually, it is estimated that in the next 2 decades that number will triple. Since the advent of plastic, growing threats over its physical and chemical harm to all the world's ecosystems have become increasingly apparent. Within the marine environment, plastic poses multiple threats—it can be mistaken for food by marine life, introduces harmful pollutants that accumulate within food chains, and smoothers benthic organisms. Plastics' detrimental effects also extend to human health, as chemicals that are knowingly associated with plastics lead to endocrine disruption, developmental disorders, reproductive abnormalities, and cancer. 


The plastic problem goes beyond human and marine health. It also introduces socioeconomic repercussions through unequal distribution of pollution and has direct economic losses to coastal and maritime industries. Additionally, its manufacturing contributes directly to the warming climate through its requirement for fossil fuels. Addressing this multifaceted problem requires many solutions with one singular goal in mind: reducing the use of unnecessary, avoidable, and problematic plastics, and stopping their flow into our lakes, rivers, wetlands, coasts, and seas. Implementing innovative systems thinking and fostering global cooperation while utilizing existing technologies is a great place to start. Learn more about the repercussions of plastic pollution and the UN’s outline for solutions, in “From Pollution to Solution”.

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