You May Be Swallowing a Credit Card’s Weight in Plastic Weekly, Says New Study
Want a drink to wash down that credit card?
It may not sound appetizing, but a new study found that the global average of microplastic ingestion could be five grams every week. That's about the same weight as a credit card. Put another way, it's a teaspoonful of plastic, 2,000 tiny bits of plastic; you are inadvertently swallowing every single week, according to CNN.
The research was commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for its report No Plastic in Nature: Assessing Plastic Ingestion from Nature to People and executed by the microplastics research team at the University of Newcastle, Australia.
The largest source of plastic ingestion comes from water — both bottled and tap. The average person consumes as many as 1,769 tiny plastic bits per week just by drinking water, as CNN reported.
"In water it's mostly fibers which could come from industrial activities," said Thava Palanisami, Ph.D., a University of Newcastle researcher and one of the study's co-authors, as reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "It's released with other gases and chemicals and this can then ultimately sink into the freshwater bodies and that gets into the drinking water."
Shellfish came in as the second most common source of plastic in a person's diet. Beer and salt also ranked high as significant sources of plastic, the study showed, according to the New York Post.
The findings, collated from analyzing 52 peer-reviewed studies, are the first to estimate the weight of plastics consumed by individual humans.
"For the first time, this study offers precise estimations on the amounts of plastic ingested by humans," said Palanisami, as reported by The Brussels Times. That weight is five grams every week, or 250 grams over the course of a year.
That number is a conservative estimate too since the study only looked at a few staples. Due to the limitations of the studies the researchers reviewed, they did not look at "rice, pasta, bread, milk, utensils, cutlery, toothpaste, toothbrushes, food packaging and a multitude of other sources that would only add to the amount consumed," as a summary of the study's methodology says.
This study comes on the heels of another paper released last week that found people might eat up to 124,000 pieces of plastic per year. And, people who drink bottled water may add another 90,000 pieces of plastics to their annual intake.
"It is very clear that the issue of microplastics is a global one," said Kala Senathirajah, a co-lead researcher on the University of Newcastle paper, as CNN reported. "Even if countries clean up their backyard, it doesn't mean they will be safe as those [microplastic] particles could be entering from other sources."
The WWF said the results of the study should alert governments to tackle the scourge of plastics with a global treaty that mandates reduction targets from companies and governments, according to CNN.
"Plastics are polluting not only our oceans and waterways but also marine life and humans. Urgent, global action is needed to face this crisis," the WWF said in a statement, as reported by The Brussels Times.
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By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.