In the Mariana Trench, the lowest point in any ocean, scientists conducted tests and found that all of the organisms had consumed plastic. Picture: 123RF/BRUNO ROSA
In the Mariana Trench, the lowest point in any ocean, scientists conducted tests and found that all of the organisms had consumed plastic. Picture: 123RF/BRUNO ROSA

The words “stop sucking” have taken on different meanings, but with the introduction of metal straws the greenest of them is to vow off of straws.

If the hype around the banning of plastic straws seems to be over the top, chew on this for a moment: some of the most remote regions of earth have exhibited signs of plastic pollution, from the Galápagos Islands to the French Pyrenees Mountains and the deepest parts of the oceans.

In a study published in April in Nature Geoscience, researchers found large amounts of plastic waste on a remote catchment in the Pyrenees mountains.

The researchers analysed samples taken over five months in a remote area of the Pyrenees (the nearest village was 6km away, the nearest town 25km, and the nearest city 120km) and found that on average, 365 plastic particles, films and fibres were deposited every day.

This study was the first to find that microplastics can travel by air and pollute areas as far as 100km away.

In the Mariana Trench, the lowest point in any ocean, scientists conducted tests and found that all of the organisms had consumed plastic and some exhibited signs of plastic pollution.

In research published in the peer-reviewed journal Royal Society Open Science earlier in 2019, a team headed by Alan Jamieson reveal that over 72% of amphipods — scavenger relatives of crabs and shrimp — contained at least one micro-particle of plastic. Some of the organisms had ingested as many as eight particles.

These were not just any kind of plastic: they are human-made pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls that have been banned for decades but have a very long shelf life in nature.

While amphipods will eat just about anything they can lay claim to, shrimp and fish eat amphipods. When fish die, the amphipods eat them and so the cycle continues. It isn’t difficult to reach the conclusion that, sometimes, humans eat these very same shrimp and fish.

Perhaps the plastic straws we discard without a second thought are not the source of the problem in these specific instances, but this problem does speak to the bigger issue of plastic pollution.

Logically, we can draw the conclusion that humans and animals are consuming these plastic particles through the food we eat and the water we drink. While the full health effects of this are still unknown, future studies will soon outline the detrimental health challenges this poses.

Perhaps you are not the one being forced to consume plastic-contaminated fish (for now), but the question begs to be answered: if we continue along this trend, how long before we are all being served plastic-flavoured trout?