Environment

A Plastic Ocean

I’m sure that most people are aware of the huge problem that exists with plastic and garbage pollution in our oceans. You may have seen the popular photos of sea turtles constricted by plastic rings or the belly of a deceased whale opened to expose nothing but garbage and plastic. It’s so sad that we as humans are hurting the lives of so many marine animals with our garbage. Even though this issue has now been brought to light and I would say most people are aware of the problem with pollution, it is not stopping.

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Here is a picture of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (also known as the floating island of trash). Garbage that’s ended up in the ocean has collected in the Pacific Ocean halfway between California and Hawaii and is currently two times larger than the state of Texas and three times larger than France! Garbage has congregated in this area specifically, due to sea surface currents and wind induced stokes drift velocity that creates a large circular gire in the water.

Initially, the pile consisted of mostly fishing nets and equipment, but plastic debris has begun to take over and is estimated to be responsible for 80% of the 3.5 million ton pile.

garbage patch

From first glance, it looks like the patch is just a pile of floating trash. But in reality, the pile is held together with tiny particles of plastic called mircoplastics (pieces of plastic that are between 0.3 and 5 millimeters in diameter). As we’ve all been made aware, unlike trash, plastic does not biodegrade. However, it does photodegrade which means the heat from the sun breaks it down into smaller particles which will then just float in the ocean forever. The microplastics give the patch a cloudy, soupy appearance with a mixture of other garbage, fishing gear, tires, and other contents from the shipping containers of various cargo ships. The garbage is is not only floating on the surface, it is also submerged underneath, making it difficult to see the patch’s actual boundaries. This floating island of trash has already killed millions of birds, marine animals, and aquatic ecosystems and is continuing to grow in size 🙁

sea horse with trash

So what is being done to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Who wants to take on the tremendous task of developing methods and teams to begin eliminating this floating island of rubble? And are the efforts that people are willing to take predestined for defeat? Well, conservationists have estimated that it would take 66 trollers an entire year to clean up just 1% of the garbage patch. So really, the most realistic and productive way to clean it up is to stop contributing to it’s growth (aka control the amount of plastic that we generate and use on land). Although plastic has become a very convenient part of our lives, it is so harmful for our environment because it will never biodegrade back to it’s original form.

If anyone is really concerned about our plastic ocean and is interested in making a decision that will substantially lead to cleaner oceans and healthier marine life and ecosystems, then they need to consider the amount of plastic they are using on a daily basis.

So many people use plastic products everyday without even realizing it.  Here are a few plastic items that anyone could easily give up TODAY:

  1. Plastic Straws – don’t use a straw or purchase stainless steel straws
  2. To-go Cup Lids – bring your own bottle or thermos 🙂
  3. Plastic Produce Bags – skip the produce bags at the grocery store by either bringing your own drawstring bags, jars, or simply putting the items loosely in your cart.
  4. Plastic Shopping Bags – this has been a popular way to reduce plastic for a while now. Some groceries will even give you a little money back if you bring reusable bags, or they’ll donate the extra money to charity if you choose.
  5. Ziplock Bags and Plastic Wrap – instead of using these products, use jars, glass containers, or these amazing biodegradable food wraps Etee
  6. Water Bottles – Such a HUGE contributor to ocean pollution. Just reuse your own water bottle. After you get in the habit, it’s not inconvenient. These are my current fav: Hydro Flask
  7. Plastic Picnic Supplies: Plastic silverware, solo cups, plates…all items that are amazingly convenient for picnics on the beach or boat days. But they will somehow, someway end up polluting the water. If you have to use disposal, at least try to purchase paper or biodegradable products.

If everyone in the world decided to eliminate just a few of these listed items, what a difference it would make! We would no longer be contributing to the current issue on pollution and we would be protecting the future of our amazing oceans and wildlife <3

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xx

Lindsey

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