Plastic pollution seemingly never stops. In my previous post, I was proud of having cleared the stream of inorganic debris and improving the water flow. And I was delight by the number of freshwater mussels. Today, I spotted and picked up clumps of white polystyrene partially obscured by flattened grass on the streambank where the native birds, Pukeko, hangout and feed on the freshwater mussels.
Kākahi, freshwater mussels, were a traditional food source for Māori. I just hope there are no white micro-particle pollutants in the stream water, home to this native filter-feeding species. I read how plastic toxins can work through the fish food chain onto our meal plates and can harm human health. Sea creatures are known to be ingesting quantities of plastic particle debris sloshing about in the Pacific Ocean. Perhaps this logic holds for the freshwater food chain?
A quick Google search shows experts worldwide are concerned by the evidence of the mounting problem of polystyrene particles. I am now left with questions:
- have the filter-feeding freshwater mussels ingested any nano polystyrene particles floating in the streamwater?
- did the Pukeko peck at the clumps of polystyrene on the streambank?
- if so, how will both species be affected?
- did the polystyrene particles get blown by wind from a roadside rubbish pile to be swept into this small stream during a flood?
Council rubbish trucks come weekly to collect household rubbish and recycling items from the roadside. We comply with Council’s regulations. Our supermarket is committed to phasing out the use of plastic bags. I can work with that plan. Large hardware items are commonly encased in a polystyrene packing frame inside a cardboard box. That stumps me. I feel guilty taking it to the Refuse Station.
The upshot is, I do not know enough about the effect of the ingestion of polystyrene particles on our native freshwater fish and bird species. It may seem like a handful of polystyrene particles. However, I am not optimistic. All I know for now, is that I still need to pick up many nano-particles of polystyrene <3mm in diameter from the native birds’ streamside feeding area. That is the first step.
Next, I will need to check the stream waterline for polystyrene clumps caught in overhangs where the filter-feeding mussels grow. That then, is my for-now strategy.