Have you heard of the plastisphere? It is a real thing. And it is an entirely new ecosystem in the Pacific that we, the greatest polluters on the planet, have created by disposing of plastics without control or a second thought. If it is a good or a bad thing only time can tell, but the reality of the situation is that millions of microbes and insects are currently turning the floating plastics in the middle of the ocean into their new home.
The Pacific Garbage Patch, in many ways a unique region in the middle of the Pacific, where currents have brought and trapped tons of plastics that have been dumped in the sea. Although seen from above, the surface of the region does not look all that horrific, as soon as a mesh is run through it, one finds a sludge of tiny flecks of plastic, with a diameter smaller than a millimeter. This sludge is exactly what attracts microbes and insects, providing an extremely suitable environment for them to lay eggs and multiply.
We cannot be entirely certain how this new ecosystem will affect us in the future. It is clear that any microorganism or an insect that gets into contact with the plastics, gets some amount of toxins stored in its body, and through the food chain passes is on to plankton and consequently animals feeding on it. In addition, scientists have recently found out that some of the microbes living in the so called plastisphere are entirely new to microbiologists. Unfortunately some of these microbes are viruses, which could have devastating effects on marine life and of course humans.
Can we prevent this? Or rather, should we prevent it? We cannot be sure. Although in one way such new ecosystem could negatively affect others, it is also now part of it all, and it is interacting and controlling the others. Scientists are also not certain whether plastic cleaning techniques will at all help, because they might actually do more harm to plankton, and therefore affect negatively the rest of the food chain. So, did we create a monster that we should simply accept and deal with as it is? Only time will show.
Image (c) Gizmodo