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Plastic In Our Oceans

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Cambria McCalla

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Photo by Pixabay

Photo by Pixabay

Photo by Pixabay

Plastics popularity and its pervasive presence today are changing the earth’s oceans. The average human encounters and purchases single-use plastic on a daily basis. This includes everything from the alarm clock that wakes you up, your toothbrush, the ziplock bag you fill with lunch, even the key to use your car. Plastic is omnipresent because of its durable and inexpensive nature. This seemingly advantageous material is the main contributor to pollution across the globe.

Five plastic islands have emerged in earth’s once pristine oceans endangering all forms of marine life. The majority of plastic waste is mismanaged and not recycled. The inexpensive nature of plastic makes it appear less valuable and easier to throw away or abandon. In fact, eight million metric tons of plastic waste enters our oceans annually. This disposable mindset, especially in population dense areas like China and India causes concern. So much so that China now bans the import of certain recyclable wastes in order to enact plans to recycle 35% of its waste by 2020. This is especially troubling for the West. Countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, the US, and the EU used to export plastic waste to be recycled in Chinese facilities. Plans across these countries to reduce the manufacture of new plastics, ban plastic bags, and increase recycling efforts have reduced to a degree plastics in the oceans.

The reduction of plastic entering our oceans is revolutionary, however, what about the tons of waste already in our oceans? Plastic has unknowingly become the main component in the diets of sea turtles, seals, whales, and fish. Small particles of plastic called microplastics have been broken down by the sun’s UV rays and are no larger than a speck of confetti. These microplastics have been ingested by the majority of marine life including fish that are commonly consumed by humans including perch, cisco, and brown trout. The waste we have created thus far has returned within the food we ingest. The human consumption of plastic has shown a higher risk for certain cancers, liver damage, and birth defects. Simply consuming seafood places adults and children at an increased health risk.

The next course of action behind the elimination of future plastic waste should be the collection of the waste we have already created. This is no small task with the size of plastic islands like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch between Hawaii and California. On September 8th, the Ocean Cleanup foundation launched the first ever device to rid the oceans of plastic. It was created by twenty-year-old Boyan Slat in conjunction with a team of scientists and engineers. The device “System 001” collects the plastic waste in the ocean in a manner that is safe for all marine life and catches particles as small as one millimeter. The Ocean Cleanup foundation is currently completing ocean trials before making its way to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This massive clean up effort can be supported by reducing what continues to come into the oceans.

It takes the conscientious efforts of individuals to reduce plastic waste that can make its way to the oceans. Small conscientious steps by individuals like simply switching to reusable alternatives for grocery bags, drinking straws, and packaged goods can prevent the presence of hundreds of pounds of waste from entering our oceans. Something as small as using a reusable straw or coffee cup significantly reduces the amount of waste entering our planet’s systems. Living our motto, ‘men and women with and for others’, by  cleaning local beaches, using reusable bags, and replacing sandwich bags with reusable containers can prevent the endangerment of marine life and help to end this ‘death-by-plastic’ epidemic among turtles, sea lions, seals, whales, coral reefs, and countless other species within the world’s oceans.

 

Boyan Slat's System 001

 

“Fact Sheet: Plastics in the Ocean.” Earth Day Network, 5 Apr. 2018, www.earthday.org/2018/04/05/fact-sheet-plastics-in-the-ocean/.

Gray, Alex. “90% Of Plastic Polluting Our Oceans Comes from Just 10 Rivers.” World Economic Forum, www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/06/90-of-plastic-polluting-our-oceans-comes-from-just-10-rivers/.

Mosbergen, Dominique. “The Oceans Are Drowning In Plastic — And No One’s Paying Attention.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 12 May 2017, www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/plastic-waste-oceans_us_58fed37be4b0c46f0781d426.

Ocean Cleanup. “Rewatch the Launch of System 001.” The Ocean Cleanup, www.theoceancleanup.com/system001/.

“Oceanic Society.” 7 Ways To Reduce Ocean Plastic Pollution Today, www.oceanicsociety.org/blog/1720/7-ways-to-reduce-ocean-plastic-pollution-today.

“Plastic World.” Northeast Recycling Council, nerc.org/news-and-updates/blog/nerc-blog/2017/11/07/plastic-world?gclid=CjwKCAjw8uLcBRACEiwAaL6MSW34HgMqiPA15nOLNu54uwzHrQRWsHg6xy7-HbqXpdTNmk7QsYwhaBoCS9kQAvD_BwE.

“Plastics in Our Oceans.” Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, WHOI, www.whoi.edu/science/B/people/kamaral/plasticsarticle.html.

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About the Writer
Cambria McCalla, Writer

I am a senior here at Xavier College Prep. Monday and Wednesday nights I  love to lead Wyld Life, and I am a student leader in Young Life. These organizations...

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