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Media comment: Tackling ocean pollution will take much more than banning straws

Dr Jessica Savage, a marine ecology expert from the Global Sustainable Development programme at Warwick's School for Cross Faculty Studies comments on the sperm whale found on the Isle of Harris with a 100kg 'litter ball' in its stomach.

She said: "The ‘Attenborough Effect’ - an almost universal understanding that plastic pollution has a devastating impact on our environment - emerged with the release of Blue Planet II. This phenomenon has resulted in large-scale governmental and grassroots campaigns to reduce usage of single-use plastics: straws, cotton swabs, cutlery, shopping bags, etc… Unfortunately, this is but a drop in the ocean when it comes to the efforts required to reduce our toxic consumption habits. Indeed, the most abundant forms of polluting plastic are not single-use, but rather damaged fishing-gear abandoned by the very people whose livelihoods depend on healthy oceans.

"While there is generally widespread understanding of the need for social change regarding our dependency on consumable plastics, the long-term impacts of plastic waste are only just beginning to become apparent. Plastic pollution joins an ever-growing list of human impacts on our environment that further exacerbate the global changes in climate that we are experiencing. Long-term, we can expect to not only see increasing consequences for our already threatened species, but also to observe negative impacts on human health. This severe threat to public health is posed both as a result of plastic waste acting as a breeding ground for disease and due to the toxic chemicals released by plastics as they degrade."

For further information contact:

Andrea Cullis,

Media relations manager,

University of Warwick


M: 07825314874