Every year, millions of tonnes of plastic debris end up in the sea, causing serious environmental problems. The Nile River is one of ten rivers that are mainly responsible for plastic pollution in the oceans.
Those ten rivers are the Nile and the Niger in Africa; the Yangtze, Yellow, Hai He, Pearl, Amur, and Mekong in East Asia; and the Indus and Ganges Delta in South Asia, a new study said.
The study, which recently appeared in the current issue of Environmental Science and Technology journal, shows that those ten rivers contribute between 410,000 and 4 million tonnes of oceanic plastic debris a year, accounting for 88% to 95% of total plastic pollutants.
Enormous quantities of plastic particles can be found in the water in virtually every sea and river, harming marine life by having tiny plastic particles floating in the water. One other problem happens when fish, seabirds, or marine mammals confuse these particles with food and consume them, which could in turn be consumed by humans.
The interdisciplinary research team of German hydrologists and specialists in environmental engineering analysed a global compilation of data on plastic debris in water columns across a wide range of river sizes. Water columns are conceptual columns of water from the surface of a sea, river or lake used chiefly for environmental studies evaluating the stratification or mixing,.
One of the findings of the study explains that plastic debris loads, both micro plastics that are smaller than five mm, and macro plastics that are bigger than five mm, are positively related to the mismanaged plastic waste (MMPW) generated in river catchments. This relationship is nonlinear where large rivers with population-rich catchments deliver a disproportionately higher fraction of MMPW into the sea, according to the study.
Christian Schmidt, a hydro-geologist at the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Leipzig, Germany, and the lead author of the study, said, “it is still impossible to foresee the ecological consequences of this. One thing is certain, however: this situation cannot continue, but as it is impossible to clean up the plastic debris that is already in the oceans, we must take precautions and reduce the input of plastic quickly and efficiently.”