Human activity has resulted in a large number of plastic items in the ocean, where it slowly breaks down into small bits of plastic. These smaller pieces of plastic are then transformed into harmful microplastics, a process that includes an unlikely element: lobsters. According to a new study, lobsters that eat small pieces of plastic end up introducing microplastics into the water, which then puts smaller creatures at risk.
The cycle of plastics in our environment is tragic; larger plastic items very slowly break down, shedding smaller pieces of plastic that continue to erode over time.
These plastics produce larger pieces that can be seen and smaller pieces that can’t be seen with the naked eye, which are called ‘microplastics.’ These microplastics include things like microbeads used in some cosmetic products and fibers that break free from larger plastic items.
According to new research recently published by the American Chemical Society, lobsters are eating small pieces of plastic located on the ocean floor that end up going through the creature’s digestive system. The study looked specifically at the Norway lobster, which lives on the seabed where plastics eventually sink.
After consuming and processing the plastic, the lobster eliminates smaller pieces known as ‘secondary microplastics.’ These findings reveal that living creatures afflicted by plastic pollution are contributing to the breakdown of this plastic, introducing additional contaminants into the marine environment. The microplastics are ingested by fish and other small creatures, putting their health at risk.