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Interview with WDC policy officer Pine Eisfeld-Pierantonio

Interview with WDC policy officer Pine Eisfeld-Pierantonio

Take a couple of minutes out of your day and read this. We sat down with Pine Eisfeld-Pierantonio, who is a WDC policy officer and the lead for Risso’s dolphin field work in Wales, and talked about recycled plastic, how plastic is affecting the oceans and what we can do.

Why is recycled plastic better than non-plastic alternatives?
Recycled plastic is more sustainable and means that no new resources are used to make the item. It is better to use plastic bags made from recycled plastic bags and use them again and again than using a new cotton bag. Cotton needs a lot of water to be grown and then manufactured into a bag, so the environmental cost is much higher than for a bag made from recycled plastic.

How can buying recycled plastic products, like the Risso sunglasses, help whales and dolphins?
Simple – we use what is already there. Plastic is made using crude oil. This is directly linked to climate change. Using recycled plastic avoids the use of more raw material and more crude oil, and using recycled plastic also means it doesn’t end up being used once then going to landfill where it could make its way to the sea and potentially harm whales and dolphins.

How is our plastic consumption affecting the oceans?
Plastic is a long-lasting pollutant that doesn’t easily break down in the ocean. Wind and wave action and sunshine will eventually break larger plastic down into ever smaller pieces, but it never goes away. Filter feeding whales (i.e. fin and humpback whales) ingest these small plastic pieces in the seawater while they feed. They also eat plankton (their prey) which might already have consumed tiny plastic particles (microplastics) too. Microplastics tend to adsorb chemicals from the seawater too, like a pollution sponge. All of this can affect the hormone levels and fertility of whales that consume them. Toothed whales like sperm whales are more prone to ingest larger pieces of plastic, like plastic bags or plastic sheeting. This is due to the similarity to their prey – squid. Plastic fills up their stomachs and they are unable to eat. They will starve to death.

What can we do?
Retrain our brains. Take your own reusable shopping bags –always have one on you. Take your reusable water bottle with you and refill it using the Refill app. Buy in bulk – the biggest bottle of washing up liquid or shower gel, even better, if you can find unpackaged items, i.e. shampoo bars and soap bars or a refill service. See if you can buy loose fruit and veg rather than the pre-packaged ones and pack them using reusable veg bags. Think about the impact of what you want to buy. Is the magazine with the plastic toy that will fall apart after about 5 mins and go into the bin necessary to keep my child happy?

Why do you love whales and dolphins?
Not one species is like the others. They have culture, they are intelligent, they live in family groups, they communicate with each other and have empathy and they can do the most amazing things under water. What is not to love about them?

Which is your favourite whale or dolphin?
I love harbour porpoise – they are small and fast. But I also love Risso’s dolphins – they are my study species after all. And I like humpbacks, because they are such amazing singers.

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