Trash-clogged oceans have alarm bells ringing

Trash-clogged oceans have alarm bells ringing
Trash such as this is becoming an increasingly common sight in the ocean.
PHOTO: Nikkei Asian Review

TOKYO - The oceans are awash in garbage, and it is taking a toll on the environment. Even places considered natural paradises - World Heritage sites and areas where sea turtles lay their eggs - are becoming clogged with fishing nets, bottles, cans and other forms of trash.

Of particular concern are microplastics, the detritus created when plastic is broken down into tiny pieces by ultraviolet rays. The true scale of the problem is not fully known, but many experts have pointed out the toxicity of such waste for marine lifeforms, the potential deleterious effects on ecosystems and the health hazard this poses to humans.

Marine trash can be broadly classified into two categories: natural products such as plants, and man-made items such as plastic. The issue was discussed at a summit of Group of Seven leaders in June, and the international community is becoming cognizant of the urgent need to develop measures to elucidate the true nature of the problem and reduce the volume of garbage in the world's waters.

Always more

Junk of all forms can be found drifting off Japan's shores, including plastic bags and bottles, furniture, tires and hypodermic needles. It seems that as fast as people pull the waste out of the water, more appears. And the cycle of destruction goes on, with seals and sea turtles becoming enmeshed in old fishing nets and fish and birds gobbling up pieces of trash.

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