Plastic in Our Oceans
We use plastic everyday: In the form of bags to bring groceries in from the car, containers or bags to pack lunch, and even plastic water bottles. What would you think if I told you that most of this plastic is being dumped into our oceans? Well, it is. Every minute a garbage truck of plastic is being dumped into our oceans. Every day hundreds of animals are dying because plastic poisons or traps them- even seaweed and coral reefs are being destroyed. Plastic is destroying the oceans piece by piece but we can stop that. The oceans need our help, the animals need our help, and the environment does too.
Plastic is Destroying Our Oceans
Think of the oceans: The blue abyss of water, the colorful fish swimming in their homes, the waves breaking and rippling at the surface, and the coral reefs overflowing with blue sharks and rainbow fish. Picture the seaweed shimmering in the sunlight, spreading through the water in rays of golden light, dappling the sandy sea floor with shifting patterns of yellow and gold. All this is in danger because of plastic.
Every year at least 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the oceans. That is the equivalent dumping a garbage truck into our beautiful oceans every minute. According to the Earth Day Network’s article End Plastic Pollution ‘There is more plastic than natural prey at the surface of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.’
Have you ever heard of ‘ the Great Pacific Garbage Patch’? Yes, that’s a thing. A ‘garbage patch’ is an area of the ocean where the plastic build up is so bad, it can span for over 5 million square miles. “That is the equivalent of the area of the U.S. plus India” (Sea Turtle Conservancy).
Have you ever been snorkeling or scuba diving? Think of all the colorful coral reefs, the beautiful rainbows of striped fish swimming peacefully through the water. Bubbles and seaweed, colors and coral. All this is in danger. Plastic is destroying the oceans, killing the reefs, and hurting the animals that live in the water. Plastic is clouding the ocean with debris and turning blue waves of water to rolling hills of garbage and killing millions of creatures everyday.
Marine Animals Need Our Help
“Over 100 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean” (Sea Turtle Conservancy). Some are trapped by plastic floating by and others mistake it for food. In some parts of the ocean, “there is more plastic than natural prey at the surface” (Earth Day Network). But while plastic may not be a natural predator, it is a predator in some ways. While a turtle is swimming along it may become tangled in plastic bags or stray fishing nets, trapping it at the surface, drowning it and starving it. Animals die every day by being tangled in a prison of netting and plastic.
Micro-plastics are small particles of broken-down plastic, some smaller than a fingernail! Many animals in the ocean think the particles are food. When a fish eats plastic it starves because plastic cannot be digested. The plastic stays in the creature’s stomach and prevents it from eating real food. It starves and dies. When some animals eat plastic they hurt more than themselves. In a documentary called ‘Blue Planet’ divers filmed a pod of whales. One mother ate plastic particles instead of krill. When her baby whale nursed, he drank the particles. The baby whale died. His mother tugged him around for days afterwards not wanting to let him go. Many animals can also get trapped in debris and many can be poisoned by plastic particles. Plastic is hurting the animals in the oceans and also the environment.
The Environment is in Danger
Not only are animals being killed by plastic, but also the environment they live in is being damaged. Plastic is killing animals who play a big part in the ecosystem and keeping the oceans clean and healthy. Eventually the effect plastic is having on the environment is going to affect you, one way or another, starting with coral reefs.
All over the oceans, plastic is killing coral. “Coral reefs are home to more than 25% of marine life” (Earth Day Network). Coral reefs are home to a large range of octopuses, sharks, and clown fish. Everything from Great White Sharks to cleaner fish and turtles to blue ringed octopus, depend on the reefs, and plastic is killing their home and disturbing the ecosystem.
Some animals, such as sea turtles, seals, sea lions, whales, and dolphins are going extinct because of plastic pollution and global warming. Seaweed provides a home to seahorses, breeding grounds for fish, and hunting grounds for sharks. But without turtles the seaweed would become overgrown and unhealthy. The green sea turtles eat and clean the seaweed. If sea turtles go extinct there will be no homes for seahorses and no breeding grounds for fish. Sharks will lose a valuable hunting ground too! All of these things are going to affect you. When you eat fish for dinner you will also be consuming the plastic that fish has recently tried to digest and kept in its system. When you go out to snorkel and admire the beautiful reefs or blue abyss of water it will all be clouded with garbage. But we can stop this.
How You Can Help
So now you know that the plastic you use every day is killing animals, disturbing the ecosystem, and filling our oceans with garbage. You may be thinking, “Yes, plastic does hurt the oceans, but it also helps people a lot!” And it does! Plastic is the most lunch for the day, or even the most convenient thing to bring as a water bottle!
But there are alternatives to plastic that are just as good if not better! For packing food you can use Tupperware, or if you think that could be lost or broken, use parchment paper. For bringing groceries in or carrying lunch, use reusable bags-they last longer and are more durable than plastic bags, and many grocery stores give you a discount for bringing your own bags. For carrying water you can get water bottles that won’t leak or spill. You can help the oceans and the animals that live there even more. Professionals, including the Sea Turtle Conservancy, agree the following are good ways to help.
- Remember to reduce, reuse, and recycle,
- don’t let things blow away,
- make sure to secure your trash at the beach so it won’t get blown away,
- don’t litter, instead volunteer or support local beach clean-ups and marine animal conservancy!
Remember that you can help prevent plastic from entering the oceans. You can help save a baby whale or a playful pod of dolphins, or sea-weed eating turtles, or even a calm stingray. You can help the ecosystem and the environment by just being a little more conscious of how much you use plastic. You can help save the oceans!
“Information About Sea Turtles: Threats from Marine Debris.” Sea Turtle Conservancy, conserveturtles.org/information-sea-turtles-threats-marien-debris/. Accessed 19 July, 2018
“Fact Sheet: Plastics In the Oceans.” Earth Day Network, www.earthday.org/2018/04/05/fact-sheet-plastics-in-the-ocean/ . Accessed 19 July, 2018
McCarthy, Joe “9 Shocking Facts About Plastics in Our Oceans.” Ecowatch, www.echowatch.com/transcanada-pipeline-explodes-west-virginia-2576042392.html . Accessed 19 July, 2018