Microplastics formed by the shrinkage of plastics thrown into the sea will take up more space than fish in 2050 and the ecosystem on the Turkish coasts are at risk from increasing plastic waste, experts have warned.
Plastic wastes thrown into seas become microplastics by shrinking up to five millimeters with the effect of waves, winds and other natural causes over time.
As the digestive and reproductive systems of sea creatures eating microplastics with the delusion of feed are negatively affected, collective fish deaths also damage the ecosystem.
“Plastic has been consumed a lot in recent years and we have started to see solid materials called ‘marine litter’ in researches carried out on Turkish coasts,” said Aslı Başaran, an academic from Ege University.
Pointing out that there are materials such as glass, wood and aluminum in marine litter, she emphasized that the garbage was broken into pieces in time, but tiny particles stayed to damage marine life.
Past researches have indicated that 5.2 trillion plastic pieces are floating in the ocean, but a new study says that there are 10 times more microplastics in the ocean than previously thought, while another recent study found that microplastic “hotspots” could hold 1.9 million pieces per square meter.
“Plastic pieces occupy volume in the stomach of marine animals. They think they are full but die due to lack of nutrients,” said Başaran, stressing that foreign substances are found in the stomachs of whales, sea turtles and sea birds.
Başaran said 8.8 million tons of plastic waste were reaching the seas every year, warning that in 2050 more microplastics than fish could be in the sea according to calculations.
Meanwhile, the seas and agricultural lands of Turkey, which ranks first among countries that import waste from European countries, are being polluted significantly.
While the country’s waste imports were 4,000 tons per month at the beginning of 2016, it increased to 48,500 tons, the highest level in 2019.
Importing waste under the name of raw material from Europe seriously threatens both environmental and human health, Sedat Gündoğdu, an academic from Çukurova University in the southern province of Adana, stressed, while underlining the need of dealing with two-and-a-half million plastic trash produced in Turkey.
“Plastic waste in the domestic market is non-processable dirty. Therefore, it is more profitable and cheaper to buy waste from abroad. However, wastes are spreading to the environment due to a lack of inspection,” Gündoğdu said.
Also saying that Turkey is number one country to import wastes from EU countries, Nihan Temiz Ataş from Greenpeace Mediterranean said that waste management is a serious issue and requires extensive infrastructure and control mechanisms.
“The entry of plastic waste [to the country] should be prohibited against the risk of plastics carrying viruses,” Ataş noted.
Turkey is the country that throws the most plastic in the Mediterranean Sea, according to the June 2019 report of the World Wildlife Fund. (WWF).
According to the report, 144 tons of plastic per day from Turkey, 126 tons of plastic from Spain and 90 tons of plastic from Italy per day are thrown into the sea.