Continuing our focus on Plastic Free July we take a look at the important topic of ocean plastics.
When we think of plastic in the ocean, most of us think of single use items such as bottles, bags, and straws washing up onto beautiful, previously unspoilt beaches. Or we think of the harm that these single use items cause to marine animals. Many of us can recall the now infamous video of a sea turtle injured by a plastic straw, impressing on us how damaging non-essential single use straws can be. What we may fail to understand is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. The problem is much more far reaching than most of us can imagine.
The ocean has become a mixing bowl of plastic ingredients swirling together to create a toxic mess. And it’s not just single use plastics. Consider for instance the debris still floating adrift from the Japanese Tsunami in 2011. According to Chloé Dubois of Ocean Legacy the tsunami sucked 5 million metric tons of waste into the water, more than half the annual amount of plastic debris that ends up in the ocean. Within a year items, ranging from a football to a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, started to wash up on the coast of North America. So much has washed up since then that the Japan Love Project was created to reunite owners with their missing possessions.
And then there’s also the noxious foam created from the polystyrene in single use foam cups which floats on the ocean’s surface creating a liquid hydrocarbon that is likely carcinogenic and highly detrimental to our health. And 10% of plastic waste in the oceans is from ghost gear – abandoned or lost fishing equipment which is reputed to kill 136,000 seals, sea lions, and whales every year. Now you have a blend that is constantly shifting with the tides and which degrades into different physical states which aren’t always obvious to the naked eye.
NGO’s, such as The Ocean Clean Up, are on a mission to remove 90% of ocean plastic pollution. They understand that if this isn’t dealt with the plastic will increasingly impact our ecosystems, and in turn our health and economies. A 2019 report from the University of Newcastle in Australia calculated that the average person swallowed a credit-card-sized amount of plastic each week, mainly through drinking water. It is elusive and destructive and hidden from our view.
The ocean is hiding our mess. Once the plastics are in the ocean it is everyone’s problem and we must start to take responsibility before it is too late by reducing our plastic consumption and supporting the companies that are making the effort to create change.
How you can help:
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