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Plastic pollution is a problem in Tenerife in the Canaries too

Updated on June 22, 2013

Plastic is a serious danger to marine life

Many people do not realise what a serious danger thrown away plastic has become to marine life and to being the worst pollutant of the oceans.

Plastic bags, bottles, tops, toys and other items are filling the seas with rubbish that is not biodegradable and kills marine creatures that mistake it for food. Sadly the seas around Tenerife and the Canary Islands are not immune to this terrible problem.

Plastic pollution photos

Plastic rubbish washed up on a Tenerife beach
Plastic rubbish washed up on a Tenerife beach
Assorted plastic items on a beach
Assorted plastic items on a beach

A worldwide problem

Plastic as a source of marine pollution has become a major threat worldwide, and as I write, adventurer and environmentalist David de Rothschild is halfway across the Pacific Ocean on a catamaran called the Plastiki in a bid to draw attention to the matter and raise awareness.

David's craft has been made from 12,500 used plastic water and pop bottles that are now serving to keep the boat afloat and demonstrate what can be done with recycled materials. His voyage went past the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is a gyre in the ocean in which rubbish mostly made up of plastic accumulates, and is said to be twice the size of Texas. It is one of five gyres like this in the oceans today.

The danger to sea creatures is that they mistake plastic items for seafood and swallow it. A floating plastic bag looks like a jellyfish to a turtle and a broken plastic toy can look like a squid to an albatross. These endangered birds, in which 18 of 22 species, are now "critically endangered," feed this refuse to their chicks. The baby birds cannot digest it, cannot pass it through them and die as it fills their stomachs.

The same goes for whales and turtles that have eaten plastic objects they found floating in the sea.

If all of this wasn't bad enough, the plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller particles and gets swallowed by fish and other marine life. It ends up in the food chain and eventually in us!

In some places in the ocean there are as many as six pieces of plastic to one of plankton.

Plastic absorbs toxic chemicals as well and these are passed on into the bodies of anything or anyone that has consumed it. Plastic really is a very serious threat to life!

Most of it gets into the sea from inland and vast amounts are washed down after storms. Other plastic litter is thrown on beaches and sea fronts and can easily get washed out to sea or washed back in at a later date, or get carried out by the currents to end up in one of the oceanic gyres.

Amongst plastic rubbish that can be found on beaches and in the water are plastic bags, plastic pots, plastic brushes, plastic bottles and their caps, plastic lighters, plastic tubes, plastic tubs, plastic toys, plastic tools and plastic trays. You name it, it ends up in the oceans.

Tenerife has had successful beach clean-ups in the past but it is impossible to keep up with the amount of plastic trash that can wash in from the sea. For an island that prides itself on its amazing marine life, which is a major attraction to divers and tourists, it is very tragic that rubbish carelessly thrown away is killing animals like whales and turtles.


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    • Stella Kaye profile image

      Stella Kaye 12 months ago from UK

      Thanks for making people aware of this problem. The general public need to convince plastic producers to come up with a better product that is not harmful to the environment. Whatever the responsible consumer does to recycle and reduce, it can never be enough when the world is producing 300 million tons of plastic each year.

    • Tenerife Islander profile image

      Steve Andrews 5 years ago from Tenerife

      Martin, thanks for posting and trying to help solve this major problem the world faces!

    • profile image

      Martin 5 years ago

      Totally agree! It is so unfair! I tried to approach David deRothschild with an idea to collect all the plastic. I have designed a portable machine which can process the plastic and produce oil! He explained that the problem is not easy. However, if anyone would like to discuss my project that would be very encouraging. My number is 0034 617868858. I always believe that: Where there is a will there is a way. Thank you

    • Tenerife Islander profile image

      Steve Andrews 7 years ago from Tenerife

      I take your point and have already written hubs on some of the things people can do to help in my other account as the Bard of Ely. One is to use re-usable cloth shopping bags, and another is to use stainless steel drinking bottles instead of single use water and other bottles. Then there are the 4 Rs: reduce, refuse, re-use and recycle plastic as much as possible. Taking part in or organising beach clean ups is another very worthwhile way to get active. I am pleased to announce that a coastal clean up is taking place here in early May.

    • profile image

      Sonja Kennington 7 years ago

      This is all very suitably depressing, but how about including a bit about what people can do to help?

    • Tenerife Islander profile image

      Steve Andrews 7 years ago from Tenerife

      You are right about those plastic six-pack holders because animals get trapped in them. There is a video I saw of a deformed turtle that had grown up with its shell trapped inside the plastic so it hadn't formed properly but it had managed to survive despite this. There is a video doing the rounds too of a Beaked Whale that stranded and died and its stomach was full of plastic bags. It is a horrible thought but I really think a lot of sea creatures are going to be extinct because of plastic killing them! They don't deserve to die because of our rubbish!

    • Kaie Arwen profile image

      Kaie Arwen 7 years ago

      Plastic is a problem everywhere, but particularly along the coastline. It kills sea life; people are thoughtless. I've heard that besides all of the dangers that plastic presents, the plastic that holds together a six pack of soda is one of the worst things floating............. I hope that people get the message.

      Thanks for this!