Every year, an estimated 8 million tons of plastic waste is dumped into the ocean, causing immeasurable harm to marine life and plastic contamination of the oceans. Plastic waste usually accumulates in gigantic patches of rubbish called “gyres”. These patches of plastic pose a serious threat to marine life as they can entangle, choke, and eventually kill marine animals. Plastic also does not biodegrade, and when broken down, it becomes “microplastic”, which is a type of small plastic particle found throughout the oceans. Countries worldwide have started to ban or restrict the use of unnecessary plastic items such as bags, straws, and disposable utensils.
Drowning in Plastic: The Devastating Impact on our Oceans
Plastic is one of the most common materials in everyday products. It is used for packaging, bottles, bags, and beyond. However, the convenience of plastic comes with a heavy environmental cost. Every year, an estimated 8 million tons of plastic waste is dumped into the ocean, causing immeasurable harm to marine life and plastic contamination of the oceans. In this article, we explore the devastating impact of plastic on our oceans and why it is crucial that we take steps to reduce plastic waste.
The Impact of Plastic in our Oceans
When plastic waste ends up in the ocean, it is carried by ocean currents and eventually accumulates in gigantic patches of rubbish called “gyres”. The most significant of these is the Great Pacific Garbage patch which is currently twice the size of Texas. These patches of plastic pose a serious threat to marine life as they can entangle, choke, and eventually kill marine animals.
Researchers have found that over 600 marine species are impacted by plastic waste. For example, sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and ingest them, leading to blockages of their digestive tract, which can lead to infection and death. Seabirds can mistake plastic for food, which can impact their reproductive and digestive systems.
Moreover, plastic does not biodegrade. When broken down, it becomes “microplastic”, which is a type of small plastic particle found throughout the oceans. These microplastics are eaten by plankton, which are the foundation of the marine food web, and consequently, they are consumed by larger species such as fish and whales. This consumption causes plastic to enter the human food chain, which poses a significant risk to human health.
Reducing Plastic Waste
The environmental cost of plastic waste compelled governments, and organizations to take action. Countries worldwide have started to take measures that ban or restrict the use of unnecessary plastic items such as bags, straws, and disposable utensils. In some cities and towns, there is a shift to recycled plastic products and biodegradable materials. There is also a push for extended producer responsibility where the manufacturers and sellers of plastics must take responsibility for their products’ disposal.
Individually, we can make a difference by reducing our plastic use. Start by carrying reusable shopping bags to avoid using plastic bags. Avoid buying bottled water, and instead purchase a water bottle that you can refill whenever needed. Say no to disposable utensils, and purchase reusable items. Every small step counts in reducing plastic waste.
Why is plastic dangerous for the environment?
Plastic is dangerous for the environment as it does not biodegrade, and marine animals commonly ingest it, which can lead to death due to blockages in their digestive tracts or pollution of their habitat. Microplastics become an integral part of the food chain, ultimately entering the human food chain, which poses a potential health risk.
What can I do to reduce plastic waste?
There are several ways in which you can reduce your plastic waste. Use reusable shopping bags, water bottles, and coffee cups. Avoid purchasing single-use items such as disposable utensils, bags, and straws. Recycle plastics whenever possible and dispose of them correctly.
What is the government doing to reduce plastic waste?
Many governments have started to take measures that ban or limit the use of unnecessary plastic items. This includes single-use items such as bags, straws, and disposable utensils. Governments are also encouraging the use of recycled plastics and biodegradable materials. Finally, there is a push to place the onus on the manufacturers and sellers of plastics for the responsible disposal of their products.
In conclusion, the impact of plastic waste on our oceans cannot be underestimated. Marine animals and our environment as a whole suffer due to the harm caused by plastic waste. By taking steps to reduce our plastic use and supporting laws that ban or limit plastic items, we can help reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in our oceans. It’s our responsibility to do our part in protecting our natural ecosystem for future generations.