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「看不見的海洋汙染:微塑膠」- Ocean Confetti!


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In many ways, plastic is the perfect material—we can make it strong and rigid enough to build spaceships and replace bones, or thin and flexible enough to make shopping bags that weigh as much as a nickel but carry up to eight kilograms. And unlike other materials, plastic doesn't rust or rot. It can last for centuries, even when we only need it to last a few seconds. We make tons of plastic precisely because it's cheap, durable and yet expendable. But the features of plastic that make it so useful to us have also transformed life in the oceans, where as much as 10 percent of our discarded plastic, millions of tons per year, ends up.
就許多方面來說,塑膠是完美材料--我們可以讓它強韌堅固到足以建造太空船和替代骨骼,或讓它夠輕薄且有彈力,可以做出和五分錢硬幣重量相同但卻能耐重到八公斤的購物袋。和其它材料不一樣,塑膠不會生鏽或腐壞。它可以存在好幾世紀,即使當我們只需要它存在幾秒鐘時。我們正是因為塑膠便宜、耐用但又可拋棄才大量製造。不過這些讓塑膠對人類而言如此有益的特性也改變了海洋中的生命,我們拋棄的塑膠有差不多百分之十,也就是每年數百萬噸,最後沉入海洋。

Big pieces of plastic are definitely bad news for marine animals like whales, albatross, and sea turtles, which risk getting tangled in the debris or ingesting large pieces of it. Yet, despite the publicity about huge garbage patches in the sea, most of the ocean's plastic isn't big. Our castaway shopping bags and soda bottles get weakened by sunlight and torn apart in the wind and the waves into little bits of plastic confetti. On the microscale, though, it's still super durable. The microorganisms that decompose ripped-up bits of wood and seaweed down into simpler organic compounds can't easily digest plastic. So while the plastic confetti gets broken into smaller pieces, it doesn't go away. It just spreads out over time, which is why we've found microplastics pretty much everywhere in the oceans, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, and from the seafloor to the surface.
大型塑膠對像鯨魚、信天翁和海龜這些海洋動物來說無疑是壞消息,牠們會有困在垃圾殘骸或吞下大塊塑膠的風險。然而,儘管人們關切大面積的海洋垃圾帶,大多數的海洋塑膠並不龐大。我們丟棄的購物袋和汽水瓶會因陽光變脆弱,接著在風及海浪中被分裂成微小的塑膠碎屑。雖然體積變得極為微小,塑膠還是能撐超級久。將木頭和海草碎屑分解成更簡單的有機化合物的微生物無法輕易消化塑膠。所以儘管塑膠碎屑被分解成更小塊了,它還是不會消失。它只會隨著時間擴散,這也就是為什麼我們幾乎在海洋的每個角落都發現微塑膠,從北極到南極,從海底到海面。

Unlike the easy-to-observe impacts of large plastic trash, the effects of microplastics are as subtle and difficult to trace as the fragments themselves. The durable fragments can serve as new real estate on which small ocean creatures grow and multiply, or choke slightly larger ocean creatures that think the plastics are food, or attract and collect toxic chemicals which become introduced into the food chain if the particles are eaten, and probably a million other problems we haven't noticed yet, because we've only recently started paying attention to all these microplastics in the oceans. But it's undeniable how much plastic trash we've introduced into marine ecosystems, and the wonderful durability of plastic guarantees it'll be an issue for years to come.
和大型塑膠垃圾很容易就能觀察到的影響不同,微塑膠的影響就和那些碎屑本身一般微妙且難以追蹤。這些能存在很久的碎屑可以作為小型海洋生物生長和繁殖的新家,或讓以為這些塑膠是食物的稍大型海洋生物噎死,或引來和收集若塑膠顆粒被吞下時就會進到食物鏈的有毒化學物,或許還有一百萬個我們還沒注意到的其它麻煩,因為我們是在最近才開始注意到海洋裡這所有微塑膠。不過我們帶給海洋生態系統多少塑膠垃圾是無可否認的事實,而塑膠極佳的耐用度也保證了它在未來幾年會是一項議題。

It's possible we can decrease further impacts by switching to biodegradable plastics, dumping less plastic in the oceans, or cleaning up the patches of sea most strewn with plastic. But until we do, the question is, Will the oceans be plastic enough to deal with our favorite material?
我們有可能可以藉著改用可生物分解塑膠、丟較少塑膠到海洋裡來減低更長遠的衝擊,或清理散布最多塑膠的海洋區。但直到我們那樣做之前,問題是,海洋有跟塑膠一樣頑強到能對付我們最愛的材料嗎?

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