Here is a staggering truth that we all need to embrace. Plastic is accumulating in our oceans at an alarming rate. In fact, at the rate things are going, plastic in the oceans is predicted to outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050. What a sad and very disappointing statistic that is.
The fish are not the only ones in trouble, pollution has a direct impact on all sorts of marine life including sea turtles, sea birds, seals, and other marine animals. Thousands of these creatures are killed each year after eating plastic or becoming entangled in it. Wildlife that is already endangered such as Hawaiian monk seals and Pacific loggerhead sea turtles are just a couple of the almost 700 species that are injured or killed by plastic litter.
The Center for Biological Diversity has set a petition before the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate plastic pollution and set up processes to keep it from even reaching the ocean.
Plastics, Plastics Everywhere
We throw so much plastic away – our landfills are overflowing, our rivers, lakes, and oceans are overflowing with single-use plastic packaging that we throw away. We live in a plastic world, even our clothing sheds microplastic fibers in the wash.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, more plastic was made in the first decade of this century than was made in all history up until the year 2000. Each year billions of pounds of this plastic end up in our earth’s oceans.
Plastic does not decompose
Sadly all that plastic that is overflowing landfills and spilling into our oceans does not ever decompose. We are drowning in a sea of plastic. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that “every bit of plastic ever made still exists.” All of the oceans of the world have a plastic pollution problem. There is not one place where a single square mile of ocean has not been corrupted by plastic. Studies estimate that there are between 15 and 51 trillion pieces of plastic in the oceans on the earth. The area known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch between Hawaii and California is now twice the size of Texas and is comprised of 1.8 trillion pieces of trash and weighs 88,000 tons, the same weight as about 3 jumbo airliners.
Things are not getting any better
The plastic pollution problem shows little signs of slowing down, despite well-meaning efforts from environmental groups. In the next decade, there are plans to increase plastic production by 40%. Petrochemical plants are being built all across America that will turn fracked glass into plastic. This, in turn, results in more air pollution and plastic in our waters This is truly a global plastic crisis.
The real victims
The real victims of this crisis is the marine life that calls the oceans on this earth home. Our poor stewardship results in devastating tragedy. Here are just a few facts to bring the point home:
- A study conducted recently found that a quarter of fish sold at markets in California contained plastic.
- Fish in the North Pacific ingest 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic each year. This can cause internal damage or death and the plastic goes up the food chain to bigger fish to marine mammals to humans who eat seafood.
- Sea turtles that mistake plastic for food can choke and die.
- Seabirds ingest plastic which can cause starvation. It is estimated that 60% of seabird species have eaten plastic and this is expected to increase to 99% by 2050.
- Larger marine mammals not only get tangled up in plastic and get hurt or die but their habitats are being threatened by piles of trash.
- Plastic debris, mostly packing bands, has caused injury and mortality to the endangered Steller sea lion.
- Plastic has been found in the bellies of dead whales.
What can be done?
You may not think that you are part of the plastic problem but virtually anyone who buys anything wrapped in plastic and single-use plastic items along with most non-organic clothing is contributing to the problem. Here are a few things you can do to become part of the solution.
- Reduce your use of single-use plastics – Things like plastic bags, plastic water bottles, straws, grocery bags, take out containers etc. Here are 30 easy swaps to help you go zero waste and here are 7 eco-friendly alternatives to plastic wrap.
- Recycle – Sadly, only 9% of all plastic is recycled. If you want to do your part, be sure that you are recycling plastic. This keeps it out of the ocean and landfills and drastically reduces that amount of new plastic that is put into circulation. To find places near you to recycle plastic go to Earth911’s recycling directory. Check with your local recycling center to see what types of plastic they will take.
- Help clean up – Get involved in a local group or organization and help clean up waterways and beaches. Not only do you get to spend time with like-minded people but you can also do a whole lot of good for the earth and ocean life as well as generations to come.
- Get on board with bans – If you live in an area that has bans on single-use plastic containers, shopping bags, plastic bottles etc., it’s time to get on board. Here is a list of legislative bodies that are considering limited use on plastic bags.
- Stop using products with microbeads – Small particles called “microbeads” are piling up in the ocean. These particles are found in toothpaste and body wash and get into the oceans and waterways via sewer systems. You can avoid microbeads by looking for the words ‘polythelene” and “polypropylene” on the labels. You can find a list of products containing microbeads here.
Tell others – Share the news about what is happening to the oceans of the earth. The more people that become informed the better chance of things changing. Watch and share documentaries about the problem including, Addicted to Plastic and Bag It.
Support environmental organizations making a difference – A number of not for profit groups are digging in and making a difference in the global plastic epidemic. Some groups doing great things include Plastic Pollution Coalition, Algalita, Plastic Soup Foundation, and Oceanic Society. Even contributing just a little each month can help these and other similar organizations continue to do their good work.
10 Really Cool Products Made From Recycled Plastic
Perhaps one of the easiest things we could all do – to do our part, is to purchase products made from recycled plastic. Keep in mind that the mightiest vote is often the dollar. Here are some neat products that embrace the recycled movement.
Preserve 8-Piece Food Storage Set, Made from Recycled Plastic: This modern food storage set is made from 100% recycled, BPA-free plastic. This food storage set is dishwasher safe and 100% made in America. This is a practical and forward-thinking way to help save the oceans and marine life.
Blue Q Pretty Bird Shoulder Tote: Use this pretty tote to carry library books or take shopping with you. Made from 95% recycled material, this bag comes in a number of different whimsical patterns and is waterproof with a zipper. Do the environment a favor and look stylish while doing it!
Green Toys Twist Teether Toy: This teether toy, made from 100% food-safe recycled plastic milk containers, is the perfect baby shower gift. Help save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions while protecting our oceans.
Fab Habitat, Indoor/Outdoor Floor Mat/Rug: This fun indoor/outdoor environmentally friendly mat is made from P.E.T, a polyester fiber that is made from plastic soda bottles. This funky rug comes in a variety of colors, is super easy to take care of and adds interest to any space.
EcoSmart PolyFlax Cutting Board, Red: Go eco-friendly in your kitchen with this cutting board made from recycled plastic and flax husk. Just one cutting board keeps 20 plastic bottles from flooding our landfills and oceans.
Norton Point Recycled Ocean Plastic Polarized Sunglasses – The frame of these stylish sunglasses is made from recycled ocean plastic so you are having a direct impact on extracting plastic from our oceans. On top of that, 5% of profits are reinvested into global ocean clean up efforts.
PuraKai Men Beer Bottle Project Beanie: You would never guess that this stylish beanie is also eco-friendly. The polyester in this hat is made from recycled brown plastic beer bottles and recycled cotton. Helping clean up the earth has never looked better.
Preserve Toothbrushes in Lightweight Pouch: Everyone needs a toothbrush, right? The handle on this brush is made of 100% recycled #5 plastic. In addition, this USA made product uses no animal testing and was created by dental professionals.
Songbird Essentials Recycled Plastic Large Bird Hopper Feeder: Even the songbirds can get in on the act of saving the oceans with this attractive recycled feeder. This feeder holds 2.5 pounds of mixed seed and comes with durable hanging cable.
Backpack Men & Women – JOHNNY URBAN”Liam”: This entirely sustainable backpack is a perfect environmentally friendly way to carry your books while making a difference. Made from 100% recycled plastic bottles, this pack is durable, comfortable and available in a variety of colors.
Are you ready to make a difference and start saving our oceans?