Review: A Plastic Ocean

Last night, my husband and I saw A Plastic Ocean on iTunes. The film was made in 2013, but is undergoing a re-release, likely due to the fact that this topic has become much more popular over the past few months and years.

As I mentioned in my previous video on the Vancouver Aquairum’s cetacean ban, the public’s view on our oceans and the animals in them is changing.

I’ve seen a number of fantastic films on our oceans that I would strongly recommend – movies like Sushi: The Global Catch and Mission Blue (available streaming on Netflix). But Plastic Ocean was especially impactful.

A Plastic Ocean follows the journey of journalist Craig Leeson as he examines plastic’s tragic impact on our oceans. There is the plastic we see – water bottles floating past our boats and discarded fishing nets washed up on shore. But that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

It’s the little things…

The real problem lies beneath the surface. There, trillions of tiny pieces of suspended plastic are mistaken for food and inadvertently become part of the global food chain. Worse yet, each small piece of plastic attracts and absorbs the toxins in the ocean environment. After ingestion, those toxins, including phthalates and other poisons, migrate to the fat stores of the animal, and then travel up the food chain.

Some animals eat plastic and die. I didn’t realize how severe this problem was until they showed the stomach contents of sea birds that had been feeding plastic to their young. It was absolutely horrifying. If I’m being perfectly honest, I wasn’t that affected by the whole thing until I saw those birds. After all, I don’t eat fish, so I figured I was personally rather immune to the pollution, but seeing how it affects these animals changed my mind forever.

Ingested plastic often made up 15% of the body weight of these birds. That’s the equivalent of 6-8 kilos of plastic in an adult human!

Even more horrifying was how young some of the animals were. A researcher notes that they found 276 pieces of plastic inside the stomach of a 90 day old sea bird. To be honest, this affected me more than any other aspect of the movie. I knew plastic in the oceans was ugly, I had no idea it was causing so much suffering.

Charles Moore, the oceanographer who discovered the great pacific garbage patch, reports plastic outweighs plankton by a ratio of 6:1 in many areas. This horrifying statistic helps make this threat even more evident.

How a Plastic Ocean endangers human health

Of course, none of this is good for our health, either. Towards the end of the film, activist Tanya Streeter visits a lab specializing in plastics. Although these scientists are working on developing better plastics, they don’t hesitate to admit that current plastics are terrible for human health.

I honestly thought that BPA was the main concern with plastic. I’ve heard other people talk about the dangers of plastic chemicals leaching into my food, etc., but I figured this was mostly the baseless fears of hippies who probably don’t use soap, either. Boy was I wrong. It turns out that BPA is just one chemical we should be worried about – there are many more, and until safer plastics are available, it’s best to avoid them altogether, which is not an easy task!

Changes I’ll be making

Scientists are currently exploring promising alternatives to trash like using “pyrogenesis” to destroy plastic. And hopefully fully biodegradable plastic will soon become the norm.

In the meantime, I will be doing the best I can to eliminate my own plastic use, and working with my family to do the same. We may never be fully plastic free, but at least we can do our part to reduce the amount of trash we contribute. And hopefully many others will join with us!

What do you think? Join the conversation!

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