Microplastics are harmful for the ocean ecosystem

Source: Julie Dasse

How microplastics are harmful to the precious marine ecosystem and us?

No plastic/plastic bag day July 3rd

July 3 marks International Plastic Bag Free Day when the world reminds itself of the importance of reducing the usage of plastic in everyday life. Every year, this day is observed to create awareness about the threat caused by plastic pollution to the natural environment, be it land or marine life.

Beautiful day to be alive and have a chance to honor Mother Earth and Mother Ocean by not using the plastic bags for (at least) one single day. These 24 hours will undoubtedly NOT save the planet from the damage that is done already, but it will raise awareness and increase the chance for the shift of people's mindset. The shift that is so much needed for the planet and humanity. Because we are the inhabitants of this planet and sooner we destroy/pollute/waste it (and we are consuming it too fast, destroying it on the way), the sooner we will be planetless.

NInefoot studio is  an eco-friendly brand using the fabrocs made of ocean plastic

Sad display of human actions. Plastic bag and other waste flowing in the ocean.
Source: InHabitat                                             

Understanding the Ecosystem

The Earth and Mother Nature are designed perfectly with their own system to survive and thrive. These systems are made of natural cycles where resources are forever transformed and reused through earth processes, everything is recycled (they are specific decomposers for that task). Nature itself is zero waste, as the dead organisms decay, decompose and create the components for new life.

Our development introduced inorganic products like plastic that are unknown to the natural cycle of life and which either can’t be recycled or their recycling take time and bring challenges. Modern urban life has disconnected us from nature through different ways, concrete jungles, urban lifestyle, office jobs etc. production and consumption being the driving force of the modern world. The focus shifted from natural flow to cash flow.

Marine environmentalist, Julie Dasse, is deeply concerned about the future of the oceans.

Marine environmentalist, Julie Dasse, is deeply concerned about the future of the oceans.
Source: Julie Dasse

The problem with plastic

Because plastic can’t be decomposed it is just breaking down in smaller pieces, harder to see and unfortunately easier to be ingested by marine organisms. We got to dispose of our waste in a trash bin without thinking of where this would go and end up. The thing is our world is full of inequalities. Maybe developed countries got their waste management sorted but it is far from being the case in developing countries like here Bali.

 It is true that more and more businesses are becoming eco-friendly and make an effort to become more sustainable. Recently, a single use plastic ban has been pushed through and applied thanks to the effort of dedicated organisations here in Bali, in 2019, but not yet at the national scale. Unfortunately, small local businesses are still using single use plastic (if you came to Bali, you know). The sad reality is that a plastic straw is cheaper than a bamboo or glass straw and plastic bags are free unlike the linen reusable bag. Our forever go fast lifestyle, take-away and cheap plastic packaging are encouraging the use of single use plastic, fast-broken cycle whe have created.

As already introduced in our previous blog post READ HERE, we are facing a lot of ecological and waste related challenges in the Bali island. Plastic is used vastly for everything, because it's so cheap, and people have zero education about recycling and the fatal footprint impact that plastic use causes. It's so sad and frustrating. We were fortunate to meet Julie Dasse, who is a marine environmentalist advocating for clean oceans. We did an interview with her, more a brainstorming discussion, about her point of view on the problem with plastic waste polluting the ocean and especially here in Bali.

ninefoot studio is an eco-frinedly surf swimsuit brand based in Bali

Julie wearing our Guadalupe Mauve, the eco-friendly surf swimsuit made locally in Bali. Source: ninefoot studio

Julie shared with us her concern and a wish:
“One mojo that I have adopted since a Surfrider foundation campaign I have participated in is ‘Throwing on land is throwing in the ocean’, it says that everything is interconnected, the land is connected to the ocean through the water cycle, through rivers and sewage pipes. Understanding that we are part of a big whole system and that our actions have impacts and when we become conscious and aware then we can change our actions and so change the impacts. If there is one message I deeply wish my students to take home and with them in the future is this concept of interconnection and being part of the Earth ecosystem”.

ninefoot studio is an eco-frinedly surf swimsuit brand based in Bali

Julie wearing our Guadalupe Mauve, the eco-friendly surf swimsuit made locally in Bali. Source: ninefoot studio

The BIG problem with MICROplastic

“Everything is interconnected, we are living in an interconnected cycle where when one of the links is affected, it will affect a lot of other links, this is true for species extinction, exhaustion of resources and food chain disruption and contamination by plastic and especially microplastic, explains Julie.

What is microplastic?
J: In the recent news you may have read about the recent finding of microplastic in the human body and blood stream and the concerns associated with it regarding the potential effect it can have on our health. Let me quickly explain to you how microplastic are formed. Micro- plastic have two origins: the break down of macro-plastic through the action of water and the sun and the micro-plastic found in personal care products (e.g. microbead in exfoliant, toothpaste) as well as industrial materials (e.g. microplastic pellets), they have a size of less than 5 mm in length. The consequence is that it becomes harder to collect (or to recycle it), it can enter the food chain more easily (aka fishes, marine mammals, birds) even our own foods, and so our bodies.

sizes of the plastic and microplastic pollution  in oceans

Plastic pollution size categories
Source: Rocha

Why should we feel concerned about it? 

J: Because as the title of the article mentioned above indicates it is harmful for the environment and also humans and it finds its way inside our organism as well as marine organisms such as sea birds, turtles etc.. The thing is that plastic in general and so micro-plastic can adsorb or if you prefer hold molecules of gas or liquid around it as a film. These gas or liquid can be heavy metals, antibiotics or other sources of pollutants.

See the picture that explains that HERE.

Why plastic can´t be decomposed?
J: Only organic matter is decomposable, example of organic matter, your body, vegetables, animals, plants, fruits. However plastic is a non-organic material. In the organic matter life cycle, once the living matter dies, it is taken care of by decomposers (e.g. earthworms, millipede etc.) which breaks down the organic matter in smaller particles such as nutrients so that it can be absorbed by the roots of the plants or trees to start the cycle again.

organic matter cycle waste management

Organic matter cycle
Source: Julie Dasse

microplastics harm oceans and are polluting the planet

Plastic cycle
Source: Julie Dasse

So with plastic it is much more complicated, because plastic is made by humans, it is a transformed material that cannot be composted. Once it is made, it is gonna be stuck on this planet for hundreds of years.

The solutions

REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE Recycling diverts waste from landfills. Landfills emit greenhouse gasses which are linked to climate change and its effects such as sea level rise, ocean acidification, increased in sea temperatures, coral bleaching and much more. When we participate in our local recycling services, we are reducing greenhouse gas emissions from landfills and we also encourage the reduction of resources extractions.

At the core, everything is made of something. If the product is recyclable, but it’s not being separated for recycling by consumers, it undermines all of the value that went into making that object/ product, which includes physical human labor, extraction of natural resources, the time and energy spent in the manufacturing process, etc. Recycling enables us to make the most out of that initial input over and over and over again. Additionally, recycling helps to create jobs in both the recycling and manufacturing industries which is a major socioeconomic benefit.

zero waste ideas and collecting the waste in the glass jar

The inspiration of how it looks when you go fully zero waste and minimize your waste. Source: @zerowastehome

cassava bag used in Bali to prevent more pollution of the plastic

Eco and biodegradable bags made out of cassava are used in Bali more and more. Source: avanieco

Supporting the slow fashion movement and eco-friendly businesses is the key. Julie is wearing one of Ninefoot´s surf set made of Lycra form recycled ocean plastic.

Supporting the slow fashion movement and eco-friendly businesses is the key. Julie is wearing one of Ninefoot´s surf set made of Lycra form recycled ocean plastic. Source: ninefoot studio

What is the most important step towards the solution? Education? 

J: If we don’t understand that we are connected to the issue in direct and indirect ways then we won’t be able to be a part of the solution and to understand how our actions and daily changes matter. We are a part of the solution and it becomes urgent that we transform our lifestyles and mindsets toward long-term thinking and new sustainable habits, businesses and development. Do with what we have and stop encouraging the extraction of resources to produce short-term plastic products which are polluting our lands and seas. They are alternatives and solutions that are beneficial for your health, the health of your child and family as well as the environment we are all depending on.

Supporting the slow fashion movement and eco-friendly businesses is the key. Julie is wearing one of Ninefoot´s surf set made of Lycra form recycled ocean plastic.

Julie wearing Guadalupe Mauve, the eco-frindly surf swimsuit.
 Source: ninefoot studio

At the end Julie shared with us some tips and changes that she has adopted herself that may be inspiration for you. It didn’t happen overnight, it took a bit of time, the most important is the commitment. Don’t discourage yourself, set small achievable goals and just keep doing it. It will become a habit soon and you will be proud of yourself.

ZERO WASTE and ECO-FRIENDLY lifestyle tips

» First of all - Watch your plastic consumption. Small changes can create mega waves of change when we stay with it. Think and reconsider whether you need all that stuff in your life. Go more minimal. Less is more. Think about your basics and what you need for your everyday routine and how you can improve it in a more eco-conscious way.
» Self care - make your own deo, body butter, tooth powder, shampoo etc.
» Use soap nuts instead of regular detergent to reduce harsh toxic chemicals from leaching into the water systems.
»  When you are waiting for the hot water to heat up in the shower, collect it in a bucket and water my plants with it.
» Food: eat plant based, grow some herbs and veggies.
» Take your reusable water bottle, utensils, straw, upcycled glass jar everywhere - glass jar serves as coffee cup, smoothies, salads *
» Make compost in your garden or subscribe to a composting company. They will use the veggies and food scraps to make ‘black gold’ or compost.
» Shop in the bulk section and bring your reusable muslin bags to put everything in them - flour, sugar, dried dates, lentils as well as fresh produce. It will reduce the amount of packaging and food waste dramatically.
» In the kitchen - store food in a container or glass jars instead of wrapped in single use plastic. Biodegradable sponges. Refill dishes soap.
» Choose glass over plastic
» Educate yourself and learn about a Circular Economy. By adopting its principles into your life, you can go a long way to helping reduce GHG - greenhouse gas.
» Educate people around you. Showing friends how to take small daily actions that will reduce our environmental footprint and also talking about climate related issues so more people know about this and might want to be part of the change.

Links to follow on your eco-friendly journey:

@plasticfreemermaid (social media education)
@dancelightly_ (she shares home sustainable tips and she is commited)
@theoceancleanup (collecting the macro-plastic in the middle of the ocean)
@theseacleaners (sailing and collecting, community, project and education)
@zerowastehome (zero waste movement - Bea Johnson’s account)
@changingtidesfoundation (women community- surf women - plastic and more)

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