Ocean plastic is getting worse every day. Various non-biodegradable products litter our seas, choke marine life, and lay waste to their habitats.
But there are many ways we can fight this plastic plague. From reusing and recycling to finding alternative products and implementing practical actions, we can all do a small part to make a significant difference for our planet.
What is ocean plastic?
Ocean plastic is waste containing harmful chemical components that cannot biodegrade in nature.
Plastic that enters the ocean is left floating on the surface, sinking to the depths, or breaking up into tiny particles called microplastics. All three are detrimental to the sea and marine life, destroying lives and entire ecosystems.
The most common forms of plastic found on our beaches and in our waters are:
> Beverage bottles
> Plastic bags
> Cigarette butts
> Food wrappers
> Fishing gear
What causes ocean plastic pollution?
It’s estimated that over eight million tons of plastic finds its way into our oceans every single year – perhaps even more.
Plastic stems from many sources. Trash that we dispose of ends up in landfills where it’s blown away into our oceans. Illegal dumping is a more direct cause of this plight.
Other factors include poor waste management, cargo ship dumping, and littering. All are extremely dangerous to the ocean and its inhabitants.
Why is ocean plastic pollution a problem?
Nature’s system is circular. Everything is connected in some way or another. When a marine animal, either a turtle, seal, or fish, sees a plastic item, they often mistake it for food. Devouring this plastic, that contains harmful chemicals, leads to an immediate effect of choking or starvation.
Long term effects include a slow death from ingesting toxic waste and passing it on to offspring when they nurse from their mothers.
Eventually, these harmful components enter our systems when we ingest the sea animals harbouring these chemicals.
Other consequences appear more tangibly as animals get caught in the brackets of plastic pollution. Strangled and unable to move, marine life is choking as a result of our carelessness.
How can we mitigate ocean plastic pollution?
There are many ways we can fight this plastic battle. Below is a list each of us can implement into our daily lives to save our oceans.
In today’s era, single-use is a common practice. Straws, beverage bottles, and dental floss are just a few products we use once and throw away. These end up in the sea, killing animals and their habitats.
To end this vicious cycle, we must avoid using single-use items as best we can. Instead, bring your sustainable utensils from home. Reusable bags, cups, and straws go a long way in the fight against plastic.
You’d be surprised how many items can have more than one life. Revamp your yoghurt containers and tin cans into stylish plant pots, glass bottles can make elegant candle holders, and milk bottles can be transformed into a bird feeder.
Plastic is incredibly hard to recycle, but it’s possible if performed the right way. Set up a home system with only a few bins and check which items your local recycling depot accepts.
For a more in-depth recycling guide, tips, and tricks – click here.
CONSUME WITH AWARENESS
Buying clothing products new not only means you’re left with a plastic bag and tags but also supports the fast fashion industry.
Many products are made in facilities that don’t give the environment a second thought, only caring about producing items quickly and efficiently – no matter the cost.
Buying second-hand reduces waste and opposes the harmful production of goods. It’s also more cost-efficient.
Alternatively, you can shop at environmentally conscious brands.
Many organisations and individuals are striving for a cleaner planet.
Releasing bans on single-use items and signing petitions can lead to huge strides in changing the very fabric of society.
If we join together, anything is possible.
If you see some litter on the ground, pick it up. You may just be saving a life.
Get involved in your local beach and river clean-ups. These actions aid tremendously in the restoration of entire ecosystems, saving whole habitats and lives.
Many of the cosmetics and body wash products we buy contain microplastics.
For example, face wash contains short-term tiny plastic particles that run off into our water systems and end up in the ocean. By placing our awareness on this, we can choose cleaner alternatives.
Use a reusable cup, bag, and straw, buy a long-lasting toothbrush and razor, purchase biodegradable dental floss, and carry your own set of cutlery.
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
How does ocean plastic pollution affect humans?
Short term, fish and other marine animals that humans consume that have ingested toxic waste pass into our systems. Other effects include degradation of habitat and a collapse of ecosystems on which we depend.
Where does ocean plastic pollution come from?
Ocean plastic pollution stems from poor waste management, landfills, litter, cargo ship waste or accidental dumping, illegal dumping, and using products in shower and baths that contain microplastics.
Can ocean plastic be recycled?
Some ocean plastic can be recycled. Plastic comes in many varying forms and types, with some being more adept at recycling than others. If you’d like more in-depth information on plastics and how to recycle correctly, read our latest post here.
Which ocean has the most plastic?
The North Pacific, located between the United States of America and Asia, contains the most considerable amount of plastic than any other ocean. It’s estimated that over 190 million pounds of plastic float beneath and above this sea’s waters.
About the author: Georgia Carter
Georgia Carter is a freelance sustainability and conservation writer from South Africa. With an innate zeal for writing and storytelling, she hopes to unveil issues and solutions concerning the environment and its inhabitants. Visit her website and get in touch with her here: https://www.cosmiccreatives.org/
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