Ocean Plastics’ environmental crisis!

A TV commercial states that by 2050 there will actually be more plastic in the sea than fish!

By 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish!

This is alarming to say the least.

We conscientiously throw all recyclable materials into our recycling bins every week. While we could certainly do more to reduce the amount of plastic we use in the first place, we’ve lived in the belief that we’re doing our part by recycling.

But everywhere we watch TV and social media, we hear about the catastrophic amounts of plastic waste floating in our oceans, our waterways, and littering our landscapes.

This is a monumental, global environmental crisis caused by a severely disrupted supply chain.

Given the general societal focus on reduce, reuse and recycle, why is it that we have so much unrecovered plastic waste? And more importantly, how did we allow that? And where is the focus on reversing the bad attitudes needed to fix this sea plastic situation?

The problem

According to oceanconservancy.org, “Each year, 8 million tons of plastic enter our oceans, in addition to the estimated 150 million tons currently circulating in our marine environment. That’s like throwing a New York garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every day for a year!”

Many of us have heard of the giant patch of floating debris floating in the Pacific Ocean, along with other similar patches floating in the rest of the world’s oceans.

“The Great Pacific Garbage Patch covers an estimated area of ​​1.6 million square kilometers, an area twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France,” according to theoceancleanup.com. This includes “1.8 trillion pieces of plastic” with an estimated weight of 80,000 tons.

If we really had an effective take-back logistics system for recovering, recycling and reusing plastics, we certainly wouldn’t have a problem of this magnitude.

The plastic supply chain is certainly broken.

Where do these plastics come from?

Rivers are considered the main channel for transporting plastics to the sea. In fact, it seems that only 10 rivers are the channels through which 90% of the plastic enters our oceans. 8 of these rivers are in Asia and 2 in Africa.

Given that humankind has historically settled along or near waterways, it is disappointing but not surprising that the remnants of human settlement and man-made pollution will end up in the water.

In general, plastic waste disposal systems in the world’s 192 coastal countries are obviously inadequate.

One of the reasons China is such a big contributor to the plastic waste entering the oceans is that China imports up to 45% of the world’s plastic waste to be recycled.

It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it? Container ships travel across and around the Pacific Ocean to deliver plastics to China for recycling, only for much of that plastic to end up back in the Pacific Ocean.

The bottom line is that the countries that produce these plastics need to take control and ensure there is a cohesive plastic recycling program for ALL.

How does it affect the environment?

There are absolutely horrific images of sea creatures choking on plastic bags or other plastic objects. If not suffocated, many sea creatures will mistakenly ingest plastic, which will cause further harm. In addition, these plastics do not dissolve, but break down into even more problematic microplastics.

And overall, the proliferation of plastic in the ocean is disrupting the entire underwater ecosystem.

Human consumption of seafood has been shown to contain invisible plastics. Toxic substances entering the oceans will find their way throughout our food supply chain.

This infographic from One Ocean One World discusses the environmental impact.

What can we do?

The well-known phrase “reduce-reuse-recycle” is very appropriate here, as plastics can take hundreds of years to degrade.

Reducing plastic consumption in the first place is the best way to avoid the problem. Every restaurant you visit these days no longer offers plastic straws. Retailers are charging for using plastic bags to force customers to reuse their own bags. And consciously purchasing products with no or minimal plastic content sends that signal to manufacturers.

That being said, we are inundated with plastic products. So recycling is key. But according to National Geographic, only 9% of the world’s plastics are recycled. This is nothing short of disgusting.

I’m always amazed when I go to different restaurants, cities or countries only to find that recycling doesn’t exist. Your plastic water bottle goes in the trash along with everything else.

There are growing stories of encouraged individuals organizing ocean and beach clean-ups or inventing new technologies to try to recover the plastics in these marine debris patches. Where possible, it is great to get involved.

Conclusion

Plastic pollution of the oceans is a very real, visible crisis situation. As we said at the beginning of this article, if we don’t do anything else in 30 years, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish. I don’t know anyone who would find that remotely acceptable.

do your part!

Reduce consumption, reuse everywhere and recycle everything!

Save our oceans and our planet!

Originally published January 7, 2020.

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