In honour of Rivers to Oceans Week which takes place June 8th-14th in 2019 we must remind ourselves about the impact that we have on our lake spreads far beyond our horizon and can influence global water systems.
“All drains lead to the ocean.” (Gill- Finding Nemo)
Luckily our sewage pipes are leading into treatment plants instead of directly into our water sources, but most all rivers do lead to the ocean. We all know that plastic waste in our water systems is a big problem. But how big? Well, researchers estimate by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish by mass.
We know and love plastic for being very durable, cheap to produce, and versatile. However, those same qualities mean we have infiltrated our entire ecosystem with plastics that will take between 500-1000 years to break down. You may have seen pictures of the massive plastic floating islands in the ocean and thought it doesn’t get any worse than this. Yet, a much bigger problem happens on the tiniest scale. Microplastics result from floating plastics that crumble into smaller and smaller pieces over time after being exposed to UV rays. These pieces easily spread and travel up the food chain, so much so that almost all adults have measurable amounts of plastic chemicals in our bodies. It is estimated that most people ingest microplastics equal in weight to a credit card. This can be from our food, water and even though the air we breathe.
Although banning all plastics seems like the perfect solution, every alternative has its own set of environmental impacts. Some of our ‘eco-friendly’ solutions such as reusable cotton bags take so much water and energy to produce the impacts end up being bigger than the problem we set out to solve. We all want a simple answer to our most complex problems but they require collaborative thinking and innovation to solve. Something that everyone can do to help is to reduce the amount of waste we have and make sure it ends up in the right place. We all love our lake but we must do our part to keep it clean because we share the water with the rest of the globe.
To learn more about your plastic footprint and ideas to reduce it check out the Canadian Wildlife Federation Rivers to Oceans week quiz.