Like a little plastic with your fish?
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“With today’s fish menu we have a fine selection of local microplastic particles fresh from the sea”, said the waiter.
“Hmmm… maybe I’ll skip those”, replied the customer.
“Well, unfortunately, they’re not optional. They come with our fish, even with our water. They are all through the sea, so fish eat them with their food and they become embedded in the fish and then we eat those fish”, explained the waiter. “It’s a new addition to our diet”.
“New addition?”, replied the customer. “Not sure I want it. Where does this particles stuff come from?”.
“They don’t start out as microplastic particles, or most don’t anyway”, replied the waiter in a patient tone that suggested this was not the first time she had shared this conversation.
“They start out as plastic rubbish like drinking straws, fishing tackle, plastic shopping bags… even discarded lighters and cable ties. And over time, over the years, the sea and the weather break them down into smaller and smaller particles and it’s this that ends up in our fish and other foods. They last for years, for decades, sometimes for hundreds of years, drifting around in the ocean”.
“So they’re only a danger when the plastic breaks down?”, asked the customer.
“Well, no. They’re a danger before they start to break down too. A danger to fish and turtles, like those that mistake drifting plastic shopping bags for jellyfish and mistakenly eat them. And that’s what that hubbub you see going on across the road is all about. Randwick Council, which looks after the beach here at Coogee, is holding this Plastics — Switch Your Thinking event so people can rethink how they dispose of plastic rubbish. Instead of tossing it out, we can recycle it into some other useful product. Commonsense, really.
“You might see Tim Silverwood over there. He’s the surfer and a campaigner who started Take Three For The Sea to encourage people visiting the beach to pick up three items of rubbish, rubbish of any sort, and put it into the recycling or landfill bins. There’s Responsible Runners too, people who like to run along our beaches although the woman there told me their running is more like strolling because they do the Tim Silverwood thing and pick up rubbish.
“There’s Responsible Cafes, some of whom offer a discount on takeaway coffee if you bring a reusable coffee cup. We’re a member of Responsible Cafes too. And if you want a reusable takeaway coffee cup you can buy a glass one for $5 from the council stand over there. That’s a bargain because they usually cost $15”.
“Uh-huh”, replied the customer who by now had lost his appetite for fish. “Maybe I’ll have the fruit salad instead of the fish. And maybe I’ll walk over the road and check out those cheap glass reusable coffee mugs. I was going to take a dip but, well, maybe I’ll skip that and instead take a stroll with those runners and do something good about cleaning up this beach that we all share”.
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