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April 3, 2019
Originally published in the April 2019 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.
A straw, a plastic bag, a water bottle—all of these might seem like conveniences you can’t live without.
But the truth is that these objects contribute to the nearly 9 million tons of plastic that enters the ocean from land each year. A wave of plastic has been washing into the sea, and if the current rate continues, that number is expected to double by 2025.
One local organization is trying to do something about this. The Florida Aquarium has launched the Skip the Straw campaign to help stem the plastic tidal wave that threatens our seas.
Not only are these plastic objects harmful because sea birds, marine mammals, fish and turtles can swallow them, the physical build-up of plastic pollution along shorelines can have both negative physical and chemical impacts on wildlife. The accumulation of plastic debris in mangroves can prevent the natural ‘flushing’ of these areas during tidal changes, drastically changing the chemical composition of the surrounding water. This can have dramatic and devastating effects both on the mangroves and the baby fish and other animals that use mangroves as a nursery and sanctuary.
Plastics can travel beyond mangroves onto corals reefs and block out the life-sustaining rays of sun the coral needs to live and grow. The plastic can physically damage corals’ delicate tissue if it comes in direct physical contact.
When larger plastics are in the natural environmental, they eventually break down into tiny bits called ‘microplastics’ that can be ingested by smaller animals which includes corals, oysters, clams and even fish that mistaken eat the plastic bits.
Visit www.flaquarium.org/skipthestraw to learn more about the Skip the Straw Challenge and learn more ways to make an enormous impact on the oceans.