Global plastic production has gone up from 300 million metric tonnes to 360 million metric tonnes in the last five years, claims a scientist from the Goa-based National Institute of Oceanography.

Also, microplastics pose a serious threat to the environment as they get into the bodies of marine animals like fish, turtles, shrimps, sea birds, and then enter the food chain, affecting humans as well, scientist Mahua Saha said.

She was addressing a webinar organised by a Mumbai- based NGO in collaboration with the National Centre for Coastal Research on Thursday, ahead of the International Coastal Cleanup Day which was observed on Saturday.

Plastics less than five millimetres in length are called ‘microplastics’ and the relatively larger particles, of more than 5 mm, are classified as ‘macroplastics’.

Speaking on Microplastics: An emerging threat to marine environment and biodiversity, Saha said, “Plastic production has been constantly increasing. In just five years, the global plastic production increased from 300 million metric tonnes to 360 million metric tonnes.”

Out of this, 50 per cent is single use plastic and only nine per cent is reusable, where is the rest going? Is it accumulating on the shoreline and coast column? she said.

“Plastic contaminant study needs to be expanded more towards open oceans. If there is so much amount of plastic pollution on the coasts, then imagine how much is there in the open oceans,” Saha said.

It is not only important to make the coasts plastic- free, but it is also advisable to check that plastics do not reach to the ocean beds, she said.

Saha said more studies need to be undertaken on the impact of plastic on the environment.

“Also, to understand marine pollution it is important to study the terrestrial aquatic systems like rivers and other water bodies,” she added.

The National Institute of Oceanography is one of the constituent laboratories of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). 

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