EnvironmentPlastic Pollution

Giant ‘Dead Whale’ Is Haunting Reminder of Massive Plastic Pollution Problem

Image via Vince Cinches

“Humanity’s plastic footprint is probably more dangerous than its carbon footprint,” said Captain Charles Moore, who, in 1997, discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This giant ‘Dead Whale’ proves just that.

Our streets and oceans are riddled with plastic trash. In fact, recent estimates suggest that over 91 percent of all plastic created for consumer use isn’t recycled (1).

Plastic use continues to rise, and the reasons aren’t justified. Take peeled oranges in plastic containers, for example. Don’t oranges already come in their own packaging? Attributing human laziness to this new fad isn’t an option anymore, especially with the damage plastic is doing the planet and its inhabitants.

But what could motivate people to stop using so much plastic? Perhaps, public art. Especially huge three-dimensional pieces you cannot miss, no matter how hard you try.

Giant ‘Dead Whale’ Public Art Display

Greenpeace Philippines sent a strong message about plastic pollution with a giant ‘Dead Whale’ art exhibit this month in Naic, Cavite. It was not there to please the eye, though (as most art strives for).

The 50-foot long whale replica (which was created from plastic waste itself), sits beached with its mouth wide open. The whale’s mouth isn’t empty, however, and is instead filled with tonnes of plastic trash. The cause of death becomes obvious to those who understand the impact plastic pollution has on our oceans.

Image via Vince Cinches

“Listen to the dead whale’s wake-up call,” Greenpeace Philippines wrote on their Facebook page about the whale, “look closer and see what plastic pollution does to the ocean.”

Bib Royong, creative director of the giant ‘Dead Whale’ project, said the art exhibit was inspired by a 38-foot juvenile sperm whale that died as a result of plastic pollution. The whale died in December 2016 on Samal Island in Davao del Norte after ingesting plastic, fish net, hook, rope and steel wire.

“We based its shape, colour, texture, size and proportion on pictures of real beached whales,” he added. “We even chose to show a decomposing whale so we played more with the textures on its skin using plastic trash we have collected. We wanted to surprise the community in the area. For it to work, we had to carefully craft a realistic dead whale.”

The organization hopes that the giant ‘Dead Whale’ art installation will encourage the public to rethink their relationship with plastic and take action against its irresponsible use.

In addition to the exhibit, an online petition was launched calling on countries belonging to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). They urged community members to “to take concrete measures against plastics pollution in the high seas to stop environmental degradation and dwindling of marine life in the region.”

Countries Putting The Most Plastic Waste Into The Oceans

In 2010, a team of researchers in the United States and Australia led by environmental engineer Jenna Jambeck, analyzed plastic waste levels in the world’s oceans. They found that China and Indonesia are the top sources of plastic bottles, bags, and other plastic waste that ends up in the ocean.

Over 8.8 million metric tons of mismanaged plastic waste in the ocean was traced back to China. Indonesia came in at 3.2 million, the Philippines at 1.9 million and Vietnam at 1.8 million metric tons.

However, that doesn’t mean other countries are off the hook. While the United States only came in at 0.3 million metric tons, the contributions add up, and sea life sure doesn’t discriminate between plastics that come from China versus the United States.

Studies have proven that plastic has the ability to travel incredibly long distances. We all play a role in creating plastic waste, and we all must take a part in reducing this devastating problem.

Sea Life Affected by Plastic

The 38-foot sperm whale that died as a result of plastic pollution isn’t the only example of plastic-associated marine deaths.

Four of the thirty whales found beached in the U.K., the Netherlands, France, Denmark, and Germany, all had large amounts of plastic waste in their stomachs. The plastic waste consisted of a 13-meter-long shrimp fishing net, a plastic car engine cover, and the remains of a plastic bucket.

A killer whale off the coast of South Africa was found stuffed full of plastic waste, so much so that she could no longer catch her own food. Yogurt cartons, food wrappers, and even an old shoe was found lodged in the orca’s stomach.

Not only are cetaceans affected by plastic pollution, but so are birds, other sea mammals and turtles. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) says that an estimated one million birds and 100,000 sea mammals and turtles die as a result of plastic waste every year. Whether they’re directly consuming it or becoming trapped in it, it’s a very real, growing problem.

The WDCS estimates that there are up to 13,000 pieces of plastic litter per square kilometre of the world’s oceans. An amount so alarming that we should be doing everything we can to avoid our use and purchasing of plastic products.

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