Friday, September 7, 2018

Death By Plastic

The pilot whale was found barely alive in southern Thailand but died soon after - all because of plastic. Photos: Facebook/Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, Thailand

I’m not sure if many of us can recall the death of a pilot whale (Order: Artiodactyla; Family: Delphinidae; Genus: Globicephala) in southern Thailand on June 01, 2018 – after it vomited up five plastic bags. 

An autopsy exhumed 80 more plastic bags that weighed up to eight kilograms (18 pounds) in its stomach. 

The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources had theorized that the whale had mistaken the plastic bags for food, but after eating them had become “sick and unable to hunt for food”, Reuters reported.

At least 300 sea creatures including pilot whales, sea turtles and dolphins perish each year in Thai waters after ingesting plastic, Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a marine biologist and lecturer at Kasetsart University told AFP.

"It's a huge problem", he said. "We use a lot of plastic".

The whale's plight generated sympathy and anger among Thai netizens. But it wasn’t the only recent casualty of ocean pollution.

In April, a 33-foot sperm whale was found dead on a Spanish beach and it had more than 60 lb of plastic garbage in its digestive system.

Around the world, 8 million tonnes of litter ends up in oceans every year, comprising 80% of all ocean litter, according to the UN Environment Programme.

it's scary because many more marine animals will die.

In Thailand, the death had raised public awareness of plastic waste and sparked a move away from the material.

One restaurant group here in Bangkok has introduced an environmentally friendly and perhaps healthy alternative – water spinach stems.

[Water spinach or Ipomoea aquatica is a semi-aquatic, tropical plant grown as a vegetable. Also known as river spinach, water morning glory or water convolvulus. Other names commonly referred to include Chinese spinach, Chinese watercress, swamp cabbage or in Malaysia, we know it as kangkong].

Water spinach “straws” are 10 times more expensive than plastic ones. Photo: Nikkei Asian Review, August 28, 2018

Broccoli Revolution, a chain of two vegetarian restaurants, ceased offering plastic straws in May, switching to the vegetable stems. 

Their hollowness is 1 cm to 1.5 cm in diameter and given that it is moderately hard, even a creamy smoothie can be slurped up through it. And when you’re done with your drink, you can eat the “straw”. 

A stem straw costs 3 baht (9 cents), more than 10 times the cost of a plastic straw. 

Although cheaper paper straws were also an option, they "will become trash, anyway", said the restaurant's general manager Krongkan Pienpanich. 

The restaurant also sells reusable straws made from bamboo or stainless steel for 25 baht to 60 baht. 

It is noteworthy to highlight that Thailand disposes 2 million tons of plastic a year. The country was the world's sixth largest producer of plastic waste that ends up in the ocean, according to a 2010 study published in the US journal Science.

I think using kangkong straws is a brilliant idea! 

Yesterday, I was at the Royal Selangor Club in KL’s Jalan Raja. 

An invitation from Rita Coray that included a speaking slot at the Royale Premier Toastmasters Club meeting sealed my participation. Throw in a free dinner plus a beer and I’m already jumping for joy! 

Still, I had to work hard because five meeting roles landed on my lap! I was the ASAA (or the Acting Sergeant At Arms, if you don’t already know), speaker, evaluator, grammarian and General Evaluator. 

I presented my Advanced speech from the Speaking to Inform manual – and my speech title was The Joy of Speaking. 

Two more speeches from this manual and I would secure my fifth ACS award. 

All in all, I did enjoy the meeting even if there were only eight of us!

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