Plastics Polluting Our Oceans
Plastics Polluting Our Oceans
The 2017 United Nations Clean Seas Campaign estimated that there are 51 trillion microplastic particles in the ocean today, 500 times more than the number of stars in our galaxy. Even if you live in a landlocked area, your plastic consumption is likely a contributor to the problem (5 Gyres)
On average, the world is getting hotter each year. The production of plastics gives off greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to this yearly warming.Both individual consumers and corporations contribute to plastic pollution. However, recycling exportation and outsourcing can also leave plastic in the ocean (Sea Going Green).
Littering is one of the biggest ways that plastic ends up in the ocean. When one person does it, it may not seem like a big deal. However, just one piece of plastic can harm sea life and disrupt ecosystems. On beaches, one of the most common places for pollution, the litter will end up in the ocean. It all adds up. Single-use plastic is one of the most common materials for products all over the world, but it affects all wildlife (Sea Going Green).
Corporations have evaded pollution and sustainability conversations in the past — the focus was commonly on how consumers can make a difference. While that is largely true, environmental activists are now holding businesses accountable.
Production of plastics burns a significant amount of carbon emissions. Further, corporations that don't dispose of their plastic waste properly add to landfills or affect the ocean. Many companies' plastic products show up across the continents due to pollution.
Additionally, the more plastic they produce, the more consumers will buy. This leads to more litter and ocean pollution (Sea Going Green).
3. Exporting and Outsourcing
Recycling is one of the best ways to make sure you're doing your part, but unfortunately, it has flaws of its own. The equivalent of 68,000 shipping containers of plastic from the United States was exported to developing countries in 2018.
Workers in these countries may not have the resources or regulations to properly recycle the materials. Thus, it can end up in oceans or landfills. The process of shipping the recyclables to another country entails burning significant amounts of fuel to transport it. On top of that, plastics are lightweight, so wind can blow them off the ship.
Incineration is another option for disposing of plastics in a nonsustainable way. Some regulations allow this practice depending on location. The burning process releases carbon emissions.
Either way, plastics get mishandled. In the ocean, this adds up. Pollution can be found in bodies of water throughout the world. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, for example, is a major disruptor of aquatic life. The spread of plastic pollution continues to harm sea life, which ingests the plastics. When humans then eat seafood, they can risk consuming microplastics as well. This is the chain of ocean plastic pollution (Sea Going Green).
Impacts on Marine Environment
The most visible and disturbing impacts of marine plastics are the ingestion, suffocation and entanglement of hundreds of marine species. Marine wildlife such as seabirds, whales, fishes and turtles, mistake plastic waste for prey, and most die of starvation as their stomachs are filled with plastic debris. They also suffer from lacerations, infections, reduced ability to swim, and internal injuries. Floating plastics also contribute to the spread of invasive marine organisms and bacteria, which disrupt ecosystems (iucn).
Impacts on food and health
Invisible plastic has been identified in tap water, beer, salt and are present in all samples collected in the world’s oceans, including the Arctic. Several chemicals used in the production of plastic materials are known to be carcinogenic and to interfere with the body’s endocrine system, causing developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune disorders in both humans and wildlife.
Toxic contaminants also accumulate on the surface of plastic materials as a result of prolonged exposure to seawater. When marine organisms ingest plastic debris, these contaminants enter their digestive systems, and overtime accumulate in the food web. The transfer of contaminants between marine species and humans through consumption of seafood has been identified as a health hazard, but has not yet been adequately researched (iucn).
Impacts on climate change
Plastic, which is a petroleum product, also contributes to global warming. If plastic waste is incinerated, it releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thereby increasing carbon emissions (iucn).
Impacts on tourism
Plastic waste damages the aesthetic value of tourist destinations, leading to decreased tourism-related incomes and major economic costs related to the cleaning and maintenance of the sites (iucn).
Plastic pollution costs $13 billion in economic damage to marine ecosystems per year. This includes losses to the fishing industry and tourism, as well as the cost to clean up beaches (The Balance).
Reduce unnecessary plastic use by the individuals and mass producers.
Hold large companies accountable for excess waste and unsustainable practices.
Support efforts to remove large plastic pieces from beaches, rivers, and oceans.
Rethink how we recycle.
Environmental Protection Agencies
Governments World Wide
Department of Fish and Wildlife
International Union for Conservation of Nature
National Wildlife Federation
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Giving Tech Labs Team - Giving.Tech