Nautical not nice: how fibreglass boats have become a global pollution problem

Nautical not nice: how fibreglass boats have become a global pollution problem

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: August 6, 2020 SNIP: Where do old boats go to die? The cynical answer is they are put on eBay for a few pennies in the hope they become some other ignorant dreamer’s problem. As a marine biologist, I am increasingly aware that the casual disposal of boats made out of fibreglass is harming our coastal marine life. The problem of end-of-life boat management and disposal has gone global, and some island nations are even worried about their already overstretched landfill. The strength and durability of fibreglass transformed the boating industry and made it possible to mass produce small leisure craft (larger vessels like cruise ships or fishing trawlers need a more solid material like aluminium or steel). However, boats that were built in the fibreglass boom of the 1960s and 1970s are now dying. We need a drain hole for old boats. We can sink them, bury them, cut them to pieces, grind them or even fill them with compost and make a great welcoming sign, right in the middle of roundabouts in seaside towns. But there are too many of them and we’re running out of space. To add to the problem, the hurricane season wreaks havoc through the marinas in some parts of the world, with 63,000 boats damaged or destroyed after Irma and Harvey in the Caribbean in 2017 alone. Most boats currently head to landfill. However, many are also disposed of at sea, usually by simply drilling a hole in the hull and leaving it to sink someplace offshore. Some say that dumped fibreglass boats will make suitable artificial reefs....
Microplastics discovered blowing ashore in sea breezes

Microplastics discovered blowing ashore in sea breezes

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: May 12, 2020 SNIP: Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of mismanaged waste could be blowing ashore on the ocean breeze every year, according to scientists who have discovered microplastics in sea spray. The study, by researchers at the University of Strathclyde and the Observatoire Midi-Pyrénées at the University of Toulouse, found tiny plastic fragments in sea spray, suggesting they are being ejected by the sea in bubbles. The findings, published in the journal Plos One, cast doubt on the assumption that once in the ocean, plastic stays put, as well as on the widespread belief in the restorative power of sea breeze. Around 359m tons of plastic was manufactured globally in 2018, and some studies suggest as much as 10% of it ends up in the sea each year. Steve Allen, a PhD candidate at Strathclyde who co-led the study, said: “Sea breeze has traditionally been considered ‘clean air’ but this study shows surprising amounts of microplastic particles being carried by it. It appears that some plastic particles could be leaving the sea and entering the atmosphere along with sea salt, bacteria, viruses and algae.” The “bubble burst ejection” of particles in sea fog or spray, described by Allen as “like soda in a glass when it hits your nose”, is a well-known phenomenon. But the new study is the first time microplastics have been shown to be ejected from the ocean. “We keep putting millions of tonnes of plastic into the ocean every year,” said Allen. “This research shows that it is not going to stay there forever. The ocean is giving it back...
High microplastic concentration found on ocean floor

High microplastic concentration found on ocean floor

SOURCE: BBC DATE: May 1, 2020 SNIP: Scientists have identified the highest levels of microplastics ever recorded on the seafloor. The contamination was found in sediments pulled from the bottom of the Mediterranean, near Italy. The analysis, led by the University of Manchester, found up to 1.9 million plastic pieces per square metre. These items likely included fibres from clothing and other synthetic textiles, and tiny fragments from larger objects that had broken down over time. The researchers’ investigations lead them to believe that microplastics (smaller than 1mm) are being concentrated in specific locations on the ocean floor by powerful bottom currents. “These currents build what are called drift deposits; think of underwater sand dunes,” explained Dr Ian Kane, who fronted the international team. “They can be tens of kilometres long and hundreds of metres high. They are among the largest sediment accumulations on Earth. They’re made predominantly of very fine silt, so it’s intuitive to expect microplastics will be found within them,” he told BBC News. It’s been calculated that something in the order of four to 12 million tonnes of plastic waste enter the oceans every year, mostly through rivers. Media headlines have focussed on the great aggregations of debris that float in gyres or wash up with the tides on coastlines. But this visible trash is thought to represent just 1% of the marine plastic budget. The exact whereabouts of the other 99% is unknown. Some of it has almost certainly been consumed by sea creatures, but perhaps the much larger proportion has fragmented and simply...
Penguins’ plastic peril: Scientists warn of growing threat to endangered birds from toxic fibres polluting the ocean

Penguins’ plastic peril: Scientists warn of growing threat to endangered birds from toxic fibres polluting the ocean

SOURCE: Sunday Post DATE: February 10, 2020 SNIP: A study in Antarctic has found that over three quarters of the penguins surveyed in South Georgia had microfibres in their stomachs. Smaller than a baby’s fingernail, and often coated in toxic chemicals, they can lodge in a bird’s stomach, and as they break down into even smaller nanoparticles, wreak havoc throughout the body. Until recently it was believed that the Antarctic, protected by the Circumpolar Current flowing eastward around the uninhabited continent, was a haven from the menace. The island is home to one of the world’s largest colonies of King Penguins, with around 100,000 pairs, and was praised by Sir David Attenborough as one of the most extraordinary places on Earth. Standing over three feet tall, the birds raise just one chick every two years, and have a striking patch of orange-gold feathers on their neck. Lead researcher Camille Le Guen from St Andrews University, who spent over two months on the island, said: “The seas are suffering from climate change, and over-fishing. Plastic pollution is an added and growing threat. “The Southern Ocean was supposed to be the cleanest ocean in the world – but maybe this is not such an isolated place after all. “The Antarctic Circumpolar Current is like a semi-barrier for microfibres, but once they manage to get in, they are stuck because of that current and then they will accumulate.” She added: “We found 77% of birds had microfibres in their diet, birds with chicks and even non-breeding birds.” And almost 300m tonnes of plastic debris are estimated to be floating at sea surface...
Revealed: microplastic pollution is raining down on city dwellers

Revealed: microplastic pollution is raining down on city dwellers

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: December 27, 2019 SNIP: Microplastic pollution is raining down on city dwellers, with research revealing that London has the highest levels yet recorded. The health impacts of breathing or consuming the tiny plastic particles are unknown, and experts say urgent research is needed to assess the risks. Only four cities have been assessed to date but all had microplastic pollution in the air. Scientists believe every city will be contaminated, as sources of microplastic such as clothing and packaging are found everywhere. Recent research shows the whole planet appears to be contaminated with microplastic pollution. Scientists have found the particles everywhere they look, from Arctic snow and mountain soils, to many rivers and the deepest oceans. Other work indicates particles can be blown across the world. The level of microplastic discovered in the London air surprised scientists. “We found a high abundance of microplastics, much higher than what has previously been reported,” said Stephanie Wrightfrom Kings College London, who led the research. “But any city around the world is going to be somewhat similar.” About 335m tonnes of new plastic is produced each year and much leaks into the environment. The research, published in the journal Environment International, collected the microplastics falling onto the roof of a nine-storey building in central London. This ensured that only microplastic from the atmosphere was collected. They were found in all eight samples, with deposition rates ranging from 575 to 1,008 pieces per sq metre per day, and 15 different plastics were identified. Most microplastics were fibres made of acrylic, most likely from clothing. Just 8% of the microplastics...