A Floating Wasteland

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A Floating Wasteland

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When the average individual is asked, “What is a global issue you are passionate about?”, many would say global warming, world hunger, health issues, political conflicts, etc. Sadly, hearing someone complain about the human race harming oceans and marine life is a rare occasion.

Over time, plastic has continued to dominate marine species and their environment. From tiny microplastics to large plastic bags and bottles, the invincible material has spread into every ocean. In a documentary, “A Plastic Ocean”, produced by Jo Ruxton, a group of individuals researched and explained the many reasons why plastic use not only harms the oceans but every person and almost species that come in contact with it. According to the documentary, around 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into the ocean every year. To make sure that our oceans and this planet stays clean and healthy, people must be educated and a change must occur.

Why Should You Care?

The oceans cover over 70 percent of the planet’s surface, so

logically, the body of water should impact the Earth in a substantial way. The water that makes each of the oceans is constantly moving. With this movement, heat, multiple types of gas, and matter is carried around the world. What many people do not know is that the ocean acts as a sort of furnace that holds a good amount of Earth’s heat, which postpones the full effect of climate change, or global warming. Also, the ocean is a huge food source for a large percentage of the Earth’s population (more than 2.6 billion people). Oil, gas, and marine companies also rely on the ocean to keep business flowing and resources attainable. Clearly, the ocean impacts every single individual that walks the planet, whether it be transporting the air they breathe, supplying their food, or boosting them economically.

Plastic Use

Not only are people not informed, but the lack of marine knowledge throughout society has also lead to even bigger issues, one being plastic use and damage. Over time, plastic has transformed from the planet’s greatest invention to its overproduced killer. Scientists have estimated more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic are afloat in the ocean. Since the early 1900s, humans have added plastic use to their normal, everyday routine. For example, almost all fast food places and restaurants use plastic to-go boxes and silverware, grocery stores are covered in plastic wrapped food and containers, and people use plastic containers to store leftover food. Plastic has made its way into everyone’s lives and it is almost impossible to go anywhere without finding it.

One of the main reasons why so many do not know about the plastic issue in the ocean is because everyone has been taught that plastic “breaks down.” However, plastic never goes away on its own. It does not break down but breaks up into thousands of tiny microplastics which are just as harmful as large pieces of plastic. According to an environment correspondent, Ian Johnston, over 600 marine species are harmed by plastic. Plastic has become so predominant in the ocean that marine species are not able to differentiate between what is food and what isn’t. Hundreds of species now ingest plastic particles every day. This not only tears up their organs and lead to deadly bloating, but the chemicals in plastic cause problems alone. Humans are impacted by harmful chemicals in plastic every day without eating it, so the harm done to species that have a daily intake of plastic is mind bottling.

Solutions 

In Germany, the majority of grocery stores have a plastic collecting and recycling machine that pays individuals to collect plastic bottles and return them to distributors. The machines scan the labels on bottles to determine where the bottle came from and what kind of plastic was used to make it. From there, the bottles are sorted and shipped back to their origin so that they can be reused. If every country implemented systems like this one, the world would be a much cleaner place and plastic/litter would stop pilling up in the ocean.

Also, in high school, every student is required to take at least one science class to graduate. However, science teachers are not required to teach about the ocean, its impacts, and what harms it, but they are required to teach about space and the atmosphere. Why is that when the ocean takes up over half of our world? If every student took at least one course that opened their eyes to the ocean’s’ role and the current harms to it, more and more people would at least be aware of what is going on in their planet. The root of the problem isn’t that there are not enough people who care, but that there are not enough people who know.

The idea of plastic being a useful and needed product throughout our world needs to be readjusted. Every human being deserves the right to understand what is happening in their surrounding environment so they must be informed. The species that inhabit the ocean deserve more than what they are getting. Without our help animals will continue to suffer every day. How would you feel if you were forced to eat and live in a deadly substance all your life?

To help out your friendly marine friends today please visit the following sites:

https://plasticoceans.org/donate/ https://oceana.org/ https://www.coralrestoration.org/about