Plastic is consuming our oceans and its inhabitants
Recently we worked on a project focused on plastic waste and its effects on our ocean and how our client was doing their part in combating this.in order to make this project a success allot of research needed to be done to really understand the problem at hand. Before this I had a rough idea how bad plastic waste was. Turns out what I knew barely scratched the surface. No, the truth is I had no idea how bad things where, and the more articles, research papers and videos on the topic I read the deeper I went down the rabbit hole which is plastic waste. Needles to say the information I gathered for this project is allot but I figured I would share just a little of it here on this blog. As what I learned during this project is something I believe everyone should be aware of.
Last year around 300 million tons of plastic was produced almost half of this is single use plastics like straws, cups, bottles and other throw away packaging. Of this amount around 8 million metric tons of plastic made its way into our oceans. When you think of how light of a material plastic is, you’ll soon realize that 8 million tons of it is allot of debris. You can kind of see now why your favorite bar might have recently switched to paper straws. Since so much of these items end up in sea eventually. In fact, there’s a patch of plastic waste in the pacific which is 3 times the size of the country of France. That’s a scary fact considering that experts believe that 80% of all waste sinks to the seabed.
The funny thing is plastic was invented with good intentions in mind. You see in the early 19 hundreds ivory was used for a lot of items like billiard balls, shirt buttons, hair combs and piano keys. They weren’t the only victims either turtle shells and cow horns were also used for these items. That is until a New York billiards supplier considered over the declining elephant population offered anyone who could come up with a solution a sum of 10 thousand dollars, a hefty sum for that time. This eventually led to the invention of plastic a substance with noble intentions. Created to be the hero that replaces animal-based products only to become a villain that harms untold amounts of animals every year.
Durable and easily molded into a vast number of products, plastic changed our society forever. But while humanity enjoyed all the new benefits this new wonder product had to offer; animals as usual got the short end of the stick. Marine life are the ones who are affected the most from the effects of plastic waste. Remember that 8 million tons of plastic being dumped ever year in the ocean? Well all that plastic turns the homes of many marine animals into a minefield. Animals like sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish or types of seaweed they often feed on. Once consumed it causes severe internal damage to the animal in question. The plastic blocks their stomach leaving no room for food which eventually causes them to die of starvation. The sad part is they often can’t help it, plastic debris after floating around for weeks in the ocean become covered in algae and start to smell like food to many animals who don’t know any better.
Even if they don’t consume plastic it’s still a danger to them. Animals often get stuck in discarded waste such as fishing nets and 6 pack holders. In fact, an average of 100 thousand animals die every year due to plastic entanglement, and that’s the only confirmed cases. To make matters worse because plastic takes decades sometimes centuries to break down an animal can get stuck in plastic die and decompose leaving the plastic waste behind which can trap another unlucky victim again. But you see once plastic waste does break down it becomes an even worse problem, micro plastics.
Micro plastics are pieces of plastic the average size of a grain of rice or smaller which litter the majority of the earth’s oceans. You see plastic doesn’t biodegrade it only breaks down into smaller pieces. Micro plastics are created when larger pieces of floating plastic are broken down by waves and continued exposure to sunlight. And with an abundance to plastic in the ocean there’s an endless stream of micro plastic, Experts call this phenomenon “Plastic Soup”. There is So much of this stuff that some experts estimate that there’s more micro plastics in the ocean then stars in the milky way galaxy. This type of plastic is also the ones most consumed by marine life. Fish, crustacean and shellfish often mistake them for food. These plastics then make their way up the food chain as these animals are eaten by larger predatory fish until they eventually reach our plates. What the effects are of micro plastic consumption in humans is still unsure. This is a relatively new issue and data is scarce or inconclusive. But there’s a growing concern on the effects the chemicals used in plastic production might have on our bodies when consumed,
The thing is plastic helped us solve allot of our life problems, it made vehicles more light weight thereby consuming less fuel, it allowed us to store and ship food faster and even gave us a more sterile durable and lightweight alternative to storing medications. Take a second and look around you and you’ll notice just how many things around you are made from plastic. The casing of your phone the cup maybe you have next to you or even the chair your sitting on right now, it’s all made of plastic. Plastic is so handy that before we knew it, it became a vital part of our day to day lives. But when we created plastic, we opened a veritable pandora's box of problems. Problems we weren’t ready to handle, and hat is rapidly getting out of hand. Plastic waste is not an easy problem to fix. For example, you know those grocery store bags everyone uses in The Netherlands, the messed-up truth is that making one of those bags creates more waste during production then a hundred plastic bags. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a magic solution that will solve all the problems plastic waste has caused. For now, what we can do is to recycle what we can and improve waste management services especially in third world countries which produce a lot of plastics such as Indonesia. As for what you can do at home, Reduce the amount of plastic you use on a daily basis and use alternatives to plastics wherever you can. It might not seem like a lot but even something as small as refusing a plastic bag at the grocery store or a straw at your local bar can make a difference.
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