Keep fish safe to eat. B.Y.O. shopping bag.

Time: 
Morning

Would it surprise you to learn that the seemingly innocuous plastic bag we use to bring fish home from the supermarket is contributing to its contamination with highly toxic chemicals way out in the ocean? It’s widely known that plastic bags are often mistaken for jellyfish by endangered sea turtles and other wildlife, which die from ingesting them. But what do you know about “nurdles"? A serious threat to the food chain, they are yet another reason to seriously and immediately rethink our reliance on plastic bags. 

Nurdles, formed in the ocean from broken-down plastic debris, are lentil-size pellets that absorb and carry harmful polymers like polychlorinated biphenyls, DDT and other persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Fish mistake the little pellets for food and ingest them. The POPs bioaccumulate in their fatty tissues, becoming something that might end up in your evening meal. A study sponsored by the California State Water Resources Control Board estimated that nurdles now account for 10 percent of plastic ocean debris. The United Nations Environment Programme recently banned nine more POPs, bringing the total to 21. But these toxins are called “persistent” for a reason: they don’t break down quickly.

You can help to reduce the bioaccumulation of toxins in fish by keeping plastics out of the ocean. Make it a point to bring your own bags every time you shop. Recycle plastic bags responsibly. Check earth911.org for nearby drop-off spots. And urge your city council members to ban the local use of plastic grocery bags—as San Francisco, a top-ranking Smarter City, has done.