We Are Drowning In Plastic
Plastics in the oceans are a problem, but we can still do something about it. Take action!
Plastic is everywhere: In your home, your office, your school — and your ocean. How did it all get there? Why is it a problem? What can you do about it?
Unlike some other kinds of waste, plastic doesn’t decompose. That means plastic can stick around indefinitely. Some plastics float once they enter the ocean, others don’t. As the plastic is tossed around, much of it breaks into tiny pieces, called microplastics.
And remember, microplastics also include bits of what were once larger items.
Why We Need to Wake Up to Tackle Plastic Pollution in the Oceans
Over the last ten years, we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century and enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times.
So, where does most of this plastic end up? The ocean — around 80 percent of marine litter originates on land and most of that is plastic. We are treating the ocean like a trash bin with devastating consequences not only to marine life but the entire planetary ecosystem.
The estimated 270,000 tons of plastic floating on the surface of the ocean is thought to be responsible for a whopping 700 different marine species who are threatened by its presence, as that plastic plays a role in rising rates of species extinction.
But it’s not just the large collections of plastics that kill whales and fish and cause seabirds like the albatross to starve to death that are the problem; plastic never fully biodegrades. Instead, plastics photodegrade — that is, they break down under UV light into smaller and smaller pieces to the microscopic level. As they do, any toxic additives they contain, including flame retardants, antimicrobials, and plasticizers, will be released into the marine environment. These tiny pieces break down no further and persist unseen in the deeper layers of the marine environment indefinitely.
Studies confirm that like the whales and fish who mistake macroplastics for food, zooplankton mistake microplastics for food — and the results are usually fatal.
What Can You Do About It
- Cut out disposables
Simple alternatives include bringing your own shopping bags to the supermarket and choosing reusable items wherever possible.
- Use reusable coffee cups and water bottles
Less than 1% of the disposable coffee cups can be recycled.
- Give up plastic straws
Just like plastic cutlery, plastic straws are an unnecessary item. You don’t need one to drink your soda or cocktail.
- Give up plastic cutlery
It is estimated that an individual utilizes about 466 items of unnecessary plastic each year. Changing plastic cutlery with a biodegradable or reusable alternative could have a huge impact.
- Give up chewing gum
Gum is not healthy for you and is potentially harmful to the environment. To begin with, chewing gum is made of plastic. Once disposed of, birds or aquatic species may believe it’s a piece of food and eat it.
- Give up the cling film
This material is not recyclable nor biodegradable. Instead of cling film, you could use foil, which is recyclable. Some eco-friendly alternatives include beeswax wraps made from cotton, beeswax, and other natural substances.
- Choose plastic-free teabags
Or give them up altogether. Indeed, regular teabags are sealed with plastic, which ultimately leads to microplastics accumulating into the ocean.
- Opt for glass milk bottles
Some shops sell milk in glass bottles while some producers may even deliver them to your home.
- Reuse and recycle
When you need to use plastic, be sure that you recycle it after you’ve reused it. Each piece of plastic recycled is one less piece of waste that could end up in our oceans.