The South Pacific island of Tuvalu should be a model of sustainability. But plastic pollution is having a devastating effect on the formerly pristine environment, and it may be responsible for the declining health of many islanders.
A plastic ocean —
British producer Jo Ruxton and her team spent four years documenting the effects of plastic pollution for the documentary "A Plastic Ocean." She hopes the film will challenge people and societies to stop thinking of the material as disposable.
No safe haven —
The crew visited dozens of sites from the Arctic to the Mediterranean and Hawaii, without ever finding a plastic-free location. The average square kilometer of ocean contains around 20,000 microplastic pieces.
Endangered species such as sea turtles could be driven to extinction by the plastic plague.
Drowning in plastic —
Plastic pollution has rapidly accelerated, with eight million tons entering the marine environment each year, according to scientists. This figure is set to rise as production of the material is set to double over the next 20 years.
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Burning problem —
In many of the worst affected countries such as China and the Philippines, local people lack the infrastructure to properly dispose of plastic waste. In some cases they burn it, releasing dangerous gases associated with cancer.
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Plastic people —
There are also concerns that people are consuming dangerous plastic through contaminated fish. A survey published in Scientific Reports journal revealed that a quarter of market fish in Indonesia and California contain plastic.
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Picking up the pieces —
There are different ideas about how to address the crisis. The U.S. National and Atmospheric Association favors beach cleaning and public education at local level, combined with challenging policymakers and plastic producers to promote conservation.