Almost all research on plastic contamination in water systems focuses on oceans. But the biggest problem is plastic that ends up in freshwater ecosystems, according to an NTNU biologist.
Concerned citizens read about all the plastic contaminants found in the ocean – from whole patches of plastic waste to dead whales with bellies full of plastic. “But it’s not the plastic in the oceans we should be worrying about the most,” says Martin Wagner, an associate professor at NTNU’s Department of Biology, “but the stuff that ends up in rivers and lakes.”
Ocean clean-up is short-term solution
According to Wagner, there are two main reasons we need to extend our concern to freshwater pollutants. First, removing as much plastic as possible from the ocean is only a short-term solution. In the long run, we need to trace the sources of pollution and stop the problem there.
New research shows that most marine debris originates on land. This is especially true in Asia and Africa, where rivers transport much of the plastic waste to the sea due to inadequate disposal and handling of landfill, industrial and general wastes. So, to prevent more plastic from ending up in the ocean, we have to start on land. Read on.