Plastics are poisoning our waterways and food chains on a massive scale. Worldwide, sea birds, whales, sea turtles and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in and around their bodies.
Fresh water species across the globe have declined by 35 per cent in the past three decades partly due to plastics.
Researchers from the University of New York and University of California Santa Barbara recently discovered microfibres or tiny threads of plastic fibres poisoning our waterways and food chains.
The fibres are everywhere and worldwide.
Locally, synthetic microfibres or microscopic plastic fibres from our clothes are draining out of our washing machines to our waste water treatment facilities, down the Skeena River and out to the Pacific Ocean.
Synthetic fleece jackets can release over a gram of fibres each wash and older jackets release more than newer jackets. Rayon, nylon and other synthetic fabrics can also cause the same problem.
What can we do as good stewards of the land and water?
Some options may be to wash less, use purer soaps or no soap, try not to buy fleece or wash fleece much, perhaps discard the old fleece jackets and synthetic fabrics instead of taking them to the thrift store, knowing the harm synthetic fabrics are doing to our food chains and waterways.
In the Skeena Watershed, microbeads or (microscopic plastic beads) from some lotions, makeup, exfolients, soaps, shampoos and toothpastes travel down our drains from our homes to our waste water treatment facilities, then down the Skeena River and into the Pacific Ocean. Microbeads are entering the food chain along this route and affecting many species. So far, filters have not been developed for our waste water treatment plants that will pick out these microfibres and microbeads.
Think of this happening worldwide and it does not take long to develop huge problems.
The U.S. has banned microbeads. Canada is drafting regulations to ban micro beads by 2019 which is three years away. What might we do today?
Try not to purchase any personal care products containing polyethylene or polypropylene. An app has been released which allows you to simply scan a bar code with your smartphone camera to determine if a product has microbeads. Spend the time to read ingredients or scan products as there are many products we may wish to avoid. And please, speak with your wallet.
Canada has 20 per cent of the freshwater in the world. This huge global endowment comes with special responsibilities. We live in 1 of Canada’s 5 major watersheds called the Skeena River Basin which leads to the Pacific Ocean. Our watershed collects, stores and drains precipitation, ground water and waste water through our lakes, rivers, streams and other pathways. Try to visualize the journey of what you are putting down the drain and how it will affect our waterways and aquatic species on its trip out to the Pacific Ocean.
Development, pollution and climate change are putting Canada’s watersheds at risk. Water is the essence of life and it is a number one priority to look after our water.
When we gather together to protect our water we create a legacy that carries forward for future generations.
Mary Ann Shannon