A sperm whale that washed up in Spain died after swallowing almost 60 different pieces of plastic dumped by the greenhouses that supply Trader Joe’s parent company, Aldi.
This 4.5 tonne whale was defeated by 17 kg of plastic waste, including two dozen sections of the transparent sheeting used to cover industrial greenhouses. There’s no excuse for Aldi’s failure to ensure their suppliers recycle and safely dispose of their deadly waste — but as long as they’re given a free pass, plastic will continue to swamp our oceans each year, and more whales will die.
Only about 1,000 sperm whales are left in the Mediterranean, and they feed near waters flooded by the greenhouse industry. Acre after acre of farmland in southern Spain is covered in reams of plastic sheeting to produce the perfect growing conditions for year round fruit and vegetables. Due to poor waste disposal, this plastic ends up floating in the Mediterranean.
Now these whales are under threat from swallowing huge quantities of non-degradable plastics. If we lose the whales, we disable an entire ecosystem —and all because grocery stores are too lazy to monitor their suppliers.
Our supermarket chains could easily ensure that plastics used to grow our fruit and vegetables are disposed of correctly and recycled. But so far, they are walking away and counting their profits — and as they do, our oceans and seas are dying. Let’s not let another whale die from too much plastic.
Desert-like Almeria has transformed itself into Europe’s winter market garden thanks to the plastic greenhouses where plants are grown in beds of perlite stones and drip-fed chemical fertilisers. Local farmers report that Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s are all valued customers.
The greenhouses produce 2.4 tonnes of plastic waste per hectare each year – or more than 45,000 tonnes altogether.
Much is treated in special waste centres, but environmentalists complain that local riverbeds are often awash with plastic detritus and, with greenhouses built right up to the high-tide line, some also ends up in the sea.
“The problem of degraded plastics that are no longer recyclable still remains,” Renaud de Stephanis, lead researcher at Doñana, and his team reported in the Marine Pollution Bulletin.
Only about 1,000 sperm whales – the world’s biggest toothed whales – are thought to live in the Mediterranean. They live for up to 60 years and are often killed after getting caught in nets or being hit by ships.
Now another man-made danger has been detected. “These animals feed in waters near an area completely flooded by the greenhouse industry, making them vulnerable to its waste products if adequate treatment of this industry’s debris is not in place,” warned de Stephanis.