Plastic Shores

As part of the European Economic and Social Committee’s activities in the context of Green Week (for which the theme this year was water), our environment team offered staff and members the possibility of viewing an educational documentary film, Plastic Shores. At midday today I went along to watch a film that actually raises profound concerns and should be more widely known. It is basically about the growing amount of plastic waste in our seas. I hadn’t realised the sheer scale of the phenomenon. It takes some 450 years for a plastic bottle to degrade, and then it is via photo-degradation (UVF radiation from the sun) rather than bio-degradation. As plastic ages and weathers it becomes brittle and breaks into ever smaller pieces. The resulting fragments, dubbed ‘micro plastics’, can become as fine as sand. They are ingested by small fish and birds and transported up the food chain. Ingestion and degradation both lead to the release of chemicals with all sorts of harmful side effects for animals (the United Nations Environment Programme calculates that one million seabirds are killed each year by plastics), up to and including human beings, and this process of bioaccumulation has been increasing imperceptibly – only specific blood tests will reveal the quantity of persistent organic pollutants (‘POPs’) in our bodies. Altogether, there are eleven oceanic gyres and plastic waste of all sizes gets caught up in these floating spirals, sometimes for years, before eventually drifting away towards land or the sea bottom. Even samples of sea water from the middle of our oceans will be full of plastic waste (there is an average of 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean). And these plastics persist in our environment over a very long period of time. Beyond clearing up the mess that is already out there, on our beaches and in our seas, the solutions are simple: use less and use alternatives; re-use; and re-cycle. The pictures from poor Hawai, which happens to have two oceanic gyres on either side of it, were truly depressing…


  1. Edward Scott-Clarke

    Dear Martin, thank you for writing about my film Plastic Shores. Unfortunately, we have had problems with our URL for the film and it has been taken over. I was wondering whether you could change the link on this post to instead. Your help would be very much appreciated. Thank you again in raising awareness on this issue. All the best, Ed Scott-Clarke

  2. Martin

    It’s done, Ed. All best wishes, Martin

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