Almost every day, we litter the earth with plastic without knowing the harm it can cause to us and other creatures that also co-exist with us on the same planet. Moreover, we don’t know that many of the plastic waste, somehow finds its way into our oceans.
The amount of waste and plastic junk in our oceans has been increasing at an alarming rate for the last ten years. Studies show that over 40% of the global oceanic surfaces are full of plastic waste. At these rates, it’s expected that by 2050, plastic will outweigh the number of fish in the sea.
The Great Pacific Garbage Island
Charles J. Moore was the first person to accidentally discover the ‘Garbage Island’ in the north part of the Pacific Ocean. 90% of junk on the Island is plastic. Plastic takes a long time to degrade thereof making a huge contribution to the destruction of flora and fauna of the oceans.
This pollution is mostly triggered by human activities. According to the United Nations Environment Program, there might be as much as 51 trillion microplastic particles in the oceans already.
How does plastic get into the ocean?
Plastic does not completely disappear. It finds its way into beaches and oceans. Most of the ocean pollution starts on land and transported by either wind or rain into the sea. Once it’s in the sea, the plastic continuously accumulates. According to the EPA report “every small bit of plastic ever made still exists”.
The biggest cities around the globe generate most of the waste. As per a report, in 2016, London local authorities collected 3.7 million tons of waste –enough to fill more than 1,500 Olympic size swimming pools.
According to Ben and Jerry, a rubbish removal company from London, the average London household produces about a car’s weight worth of waste each year. This translates to millions of tons of waste produced by all households in London. Imagine if you had to store that waste in your living room instead of the council taking it away.
How would your living room look like? how could it smell? Could you find space to move around? Apparently, there would be the foul smell, toxic gases, rats and unpleasant environment for any human to peacefully stay in. No human being would envy to live in such a dirty place.
Heavy Burden on Wildlife
When plastic ends up in the oceans, they are a torment to marine life. Not only do they affect the small fish, but also huge mammals in a number of ways. It’s estimated that around 1,000,000 sea birds and one hundred marine mammals die as a result of ocean plastic ingestion.
Likewise, most marine species like zooplankton and whales all eat microplastics. The statistics are alarming, more so, when they imply that a good number of marine species face extinction brought about by this type of ocean pollution.
- Sea turtles consume plastic since they confuse garbage for food. The plastic consumed leads to the blockage of the gut and eventually death. According to research studies, nearly half of the sea turtles across the globe have consumed plastics.
Plastic pollution is so pervasive in our ocean that has affected sea turtle reproduction.
Another danger to the sea turtles is ‘ghost nets’. These nets left by fishermen do not biodegrade and are harmful to marine life. They entangle to the sea animals restricting their movements and also result in death.
- Human beings are also on the list. People consume fish that has already consumed plastic from the sea. They are affected by health-wise because of the harmful toxins in plastics.
- Another way in which plastic affect human is that they may have sharp edges. The edges can cause harm by cutting people who walk along the beach or trash that’s hidden in the sand. Moreover, trash carries germs which may make people sick.
- Birds have not been spared either. A good example is the seagulls. If they eat plastic from the ocean mistaking it for food, it can be harmful to their stomachs.
Plastic also contains toxic chemicals, if these chemicals are mixed with water, they contaminate the water and decrease the quality of water.
No More Time to Waste
We all have to come up with a solution to this problem. No more time to waste. We understand that cleaning up all the waste in the ocean is not achievable. But we can try, at our personal level on how we can stop the waste from reaching the ocean.
How can we achieve this?
- At the personal level, try to minimize excess packaging or use biodegradable material.
- Recycle and Reuse. Recycle plastics so that they can be used for other purposes and don’t end up in the landfill and in our ocean
- Create awareness, about the plastic problem in our oceans to communities and friends.