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Is plastic the new diet for turtles?

Sea turtles have roamed the ocean for over 150 million years, but now, their reign is rapidly ending because of plastic pollution in the ocean. The problem is that sea turtles don’t know what plastic is, and they don’t get to choose.

Research suggests that 52% of the world’s turtles have eaten plastic waste. The reasons are simple: a floating plastic bag can look like a lot of jellyfish, algae, or other species that make up a large component of the sea turtles’ diets.

if sea turtles disappear from the ocean, it wouldn’t only be a huge loss for future human generations but it would also threaten the longevity of other marine life. Scientists believe that sea turtle species are essential to the health of marine ecosystems.

Even though the adult turtles become wiser about their eating habits with age, sometimes the luring thought of a snack makes for bad choices. Plastic waste that looks like a sea turtles natural food is more frequently eaten . As an example the endangered Galapagos green turtle’s favourite food is jellyfish. Plastic bags that float in the ocean look very similar to jelly fish and if a turtle ingests a plastic bag, it can form fatal blockage.

The outlook for turtles that eat plastic is bleak: for 22% ingesting just one plastic item can be a death sentence. Sharp plastics can rupture internal organs and bags can cause intestinal blockages leaving turtles unable to feed, resulting in starvation.

Even if they survive, consuming plastic can make turtles unnaturally buoyant, which can stunt their growth and lead to slow reproduction rates.

Even though the situation is urgent for the sea turtles, it’s important to remember that there is still hope. Together we can help save the sea turtles and it all starts from your home:

  • Reduce. Every plastic piece you don’t buy, is one less piece of plastic that can end up in the ocean. If you stop buying plastic, you’ll send a signal to companies all over the world to reduce their plastic packaging.

  • Avoid single-use plastic. Use a reusable shopping bag instead of a plastic bag and opt for a reusable or paper straw instead of a plastic one. Watch out for hidden plastics like tea bags, chewing gum, wet wipes and takeaway coffee “paper” cups. Take away paper cups are often lined with plastic.

  • Avoid microplastic. Plastic pieces smaller than 5 mm in length are called microplastics. Microplastics have been found everywhere from the deepest part in the Mariana trench to inside animals and humans.

We don’t know yet how harmful microplastics are to humans or animals. They might be made of toxic materials, or work as vectors accumulating and spreading toxins, bacteria and viruses.

Do yourself and the ocean a favour, buy cosmetic products such as toothpaste, shampoo, makeup and conditioners without microplastic.

  • Recycle. Even though plastic can cause harm, it is still a valuable resource. Since it is not biodegradable, rather sort your rubbish and send your recyclable plastic to a new life. That way, it is being reused and discourages the production of more.

With the odds stacked so heavily against sea turtles, it can be difficult to know how you can help. Many of us are doing our part to reduce plastic pollution by recycling and reducing single-use items, but it’s just not enough on its own. Governments must step up to take accountability and end this pollution epidemic.


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