How We Can Start To Remove 8 Billion Pounds of Plastic Pollution From Our Planet’s Oceans

Long before COVID-19 was even a thing, the world was suffering from a global crisis. The signs of this scourcge are evident on 40% of the surface of our planet’s oceans.

Our oceans are blighted with billions of pounds of plastic. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, plastic waste will likely outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that an estimated 8 million tons of plastic enter our oceans every year, and there are somewhere between 20 million and 1.8 billion pieces of plastic along the coastline of the United States alone.

Plastic waste has become much more than a mere aesthetic problem.

PLastic pollution is a threat to many marine species.
Source: Adobe Stock/Piman Khrutmuang
PLastic pollution is a threat to many marine species.

According to the , plastic debris harms physical habitats, transports chemical pollutants, threatens aquatic life, and interferes with human uses of river, marine and coastal environments. Plastic trash  is often eaten by birds and fish, concentrating toxic chemicals in their tissues, and filling their stomachs, causing them to starve.

This trash threatens our aquatic wildlife more and more with each passing year. Commercial fishing nets are discarded into the sea, and whether intentionally or not, entangle animals with no chance for escape. Rubber like that from balloons ends up in the ocean and is deadly if consumed by animals who think it may be food. And ubiquitous plastic 6-pack can holders strangle small marine life.

There are about 8 billion pounds of plastic in the world's oceans.
Source: Adobe Stock/chaiyapruek
There are about 8 billion pounds of plastic in the world’s oceans.

The UN report, Marine Debris: Understanding, Preventing and Mitigating the Significant Adverse Impacts on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity found that the number of species affected by marine debris has increased from 663 to 817 since 2012. It also warned that plastic waste, is an increasing threat to human health and well-being, and is costing countries billions of dollars each year.

“marine debris is an important source of anthropogenic stress affecting marine and coastal biodiversity and habitats,” the report maintains. “This impact is likely to grow considerably in the coming decades unless there is a concerted effort to prevent and substantially reduce the flow of waste materials into the marine environment. A number of measures aimed at achieving this objective could be implemented at the national, regional and global levels, adapted to their unique contexts. Implementation will require effective coordination, close collaboration between industry, producer organizations and government, and substantial involvement of consumers. Failure to address marine debris adequately will lead to continued impacts on marine biodiversity and ecosystems, affecting the services they provide.”

Plastic can leech chemicals into the ocean, or confuse animals into thinking it is food.
Source: Adobe Stock/the_lightwriter
Plastic can leech chemicals into the ocean, or confuse animals into thinking it is food.

It’s hard to imagine, but our daily actions carry serious implications for the health of our oceans. Any litter that doesn’t go to a landfill will almost undoubtedly — in one way or another — end up in a body of water that flows to the ocean, and plastics are a huge problem for ocean trash because they take hundreds of years to biodegrade. Marine debris can be found even in the deepest parts of our ocean. In 2016, a plastic bag was documented in the Arc of Fire National Wildlife Refuge, part of the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument.

Just as it was created, solving this problem will take all of us. We all need to participate in protecting our oceans’ ecosystems if we truly want to affect change.

As NOAA reports, the Save our Seas Act of 2018 amends and reauthorizes the Marine Debris Act to promote international action, authorize cleanup and response actions, and increase coordination among federal agencies on this topic.

Some animals have died after ingesting plastic.
Source: Adobe Stock/willyam
Some animals have died after ingesting plastic.

Here are some tasks we can further incorporate into our daily lives to make a lasting positive effect on the future of ocean health:

  • Recycle all paper and plastic materials
  • Cut up your 6-pack can holders
  • Throw away cigarette butts. They aren’t biodegradable!
  • Discard of all chemical products at appropriate facilities. Simply throwing them away in the garbage means they will almost certainly end up in the ocean
  • Reuse plastic and paper bags for general cleaning, litter box emptying, storage
  • Start a recycling program at work
  • Bring your own cup to coffee shops
  • Grow organic vegetables and plants
  • Use your own Tupperware instead of disposable plastic containers
Our oceans and the animals that live there deserve a clean environment!
Source: Adobe Stock/Greg Brave
Our oceans and the animals that live there deserve a clean environment!

Don’t let marine animals suffer as a result of our negligence. Click below and take the pledge to protect our oceans!

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