One of the most serious threats to our oceans is plastic pollution. Plastic constitutes approximately 90% of all rubbish floating on the ocean’s surface, with 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile. Unlike other types of rubbish, plastic does not biodegrade; instead, it photo-degrades with sunlight, breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces, but they never really disappear. These plastic pieces are eaten by marine life, wash up on beaches, or break down into microscopic plastic dust, attracting more debris.
Plastic is also swept away by ocean currents, landing in swirling vortexes called ocean gyres. The North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California is home to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the largest ocean garbage site in the world. The floating mass of plastic is twice the size of Texas, with plastic pieces outnumbering sea life by a measure of 6 to 1. These floating garbage sites are impossible to fully clean up.
Plastic poses a significant threat to the health of sea creatures, both big and small. Over 100,000 marine mammals and one million seabirds die each year from ingesting or becoming entangled in plastic.
Plastic is also unusually toxic once it enters the ocean environment. Plastic particles are magnets for different types of pollutants, such as DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and POPs (Persistent Organic Pollutants), and expel harmful chemicals such as BPA (Bisphenol A). Organisms at the bottom of the food chain, such as plankton and krill, ingest the chemicals along with the microscopic plastic particles. As larger fish consume the smaller ones, the chemicals work their way up the food chain. Ultimately, people consume the largest fish, having a devastating effect on human health.
It takes 500-1000 years for plastic to degrade. Even if we stopped using plastics today, they will remain with us for many generations, threatening both human and ocean health. Despite these alarming facts, there are actions we can take to address the problem of plastics.
8% of the world’s oil is used for plastic production.
267 species around the world are harmed by plastic. 44% of seabird, 43% of ocean mammals, and 86% of sea turtles ingest or become tangled in plastic.
Biodegradable bags prevent the deleterious effects of plastic on ocean environments. They break down naturally, and don’t leave harmful chemicals behind.
Plastic in the ocean breaks down into such small segments that pieces of plastic from a one liter bottle could end up on every mile of beach throughout the world.
Nurdles are small plastic pellets that are the base of plastic production and manufacturing. They are found in sandy beaches worldwide and threaten countless marine life that accidentally eat them.
Ever wonder where your plastic bottles end up once you have put them in a bin?