Plastic is a part of our everyday lives. It’s used to make single-use bags, bottles, straws, and take-out containers. The overuse of plastic is causing irreversible damage to our planet. Plastic never goes away and has been polluting the ocean for over 50 years now.
How big of a problem is this? Let’s consider how much plastic there is in the ocean, where it comes from, what type of plastic is most common in the ocean, and the negative effects it has on marine life. Then we’ll take a look at what you can do to help solve the world’s plastic problem.
How Much Plastic is in the Ocean?
The effects of plastic pollution are far-reaching. Plastic is found near heavily populated shorelines, as well as remote islands far from any cities or towns. It is even present on seafloor sediment.
Recent data collected on plastic presence in our oceans is both eye-opening and sickening. Here’s just a snapshot of the problem:
- It is estimated that there are now 5.25 Trillion pieces of plastic found throughout our oceans.
- The most recent study based on samples collected around the world shows that plastic pieces outweigh zooplankton in the ocean by a ratio of 6 to 1.
- Plastic has even been found in arctic ice samples collected by researchers studying climate change.
- The city of Hallenger, near the Fram Strait, is one of the most polluted places on the planet with more than 12,000 microplastic particles per liter of sea ice.
- One garbage truck of plastic is discarded into our oceans every minute.
With so much plastic already present in the ocean, anything you can do to help minimize additional pollution is a step in the right direction.
What Plastic Types are Most Common?
Plastics and polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) comprise 90% of all marine debris.
According to the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup 2017 Report:
- If all the plastic bottles collected during the 2016 International Coastal Cleanup were stacked they would stand 372 times higher than Dubai’s towering Burj Khalifa, a staggering 828 meters high.
- All the plastic straws collected off beaches around the world would stand 145 times higher than the One World Trade Center in New York City, which measures 541 meters.
Where Does the Plastic in the Ocean Come From?
Based on research, plastic build-up in the ocean can be traced back to rivers.
- Nearly 80% of the ocean’s plastic comes from rivers
- 20% comes from marine plastic such as netting and other fishing supplies.
The highest concentration of plastic pollution is found within five river systems including:
- The Pasig River in the Philipines (6.43% of all ocean plastic)
- Klang River (1.33%)
- Ulhas River (1.33%)
- Tullahan River (1.33%)
- Meycauayan (1.23%)
While plastic pollution has been found throughout the ocean, plastic concentration is highest within these five rivers, the shores of which are home to one billion people.
Which Country Puts the Most Plastic into the Ocean?
Surprisingly, nearly 81% of all the ocean’s plastic originates in Asia. Asia is home to the top 10 polluting rivers in the world.
The Philipines Account for Nearly 1/3 of all Ocean Plastic
The Philipines account for nearly one-third of all plastic pollution in the ocean and on beaches. This is due to a combination of population and plastic consumption.
- 20 Million people live on The Philippine’s coastlines with many living below or near poverty (source: World Bank)
- In 2012, every person within the Phillippines consumed an average of 21 plastic bags per day (source: Science Mag)
- 7 of the top 10 most polluted rivers in the world are located in the Philippines.
Rich Countries Contribute Significantly Less Plastic to the Ocean
Despite using significantly more plastic than less wealthy nations, rich countries contribute much less plastic to our oceans.
This is because wealthy nations are more likely to dispose of plastics properly through recycling centers, burning, or burying them in proper landfills.
European countries, for example, emit less than 0.1 kilograms of plastic per person. This compares to 3.5 kilograms in the Philippines or 2.4 kilograms in Malaysia.
How We Can Keep Plastics Out of Our Oceans
How Much Does the United States Contribute to Plastic in the Ocean?
In a recent study done by Science.org, the United States is one of the largest contributors to ocean plastic.
“Our analysis demonstrates that the United States has contributed enormous amounts of plastic waste to the environment, including the ocean, despite having robust waste management infrastructure to collect, transport, and process waste.”
Despite one of the higher recycling rates in the world, the US has typically exported its recycling to southeast Asian countries and China. This increases the chance of mismanaged plastic. So even though the US is thought to be recycling their plastic, it is simply being transported and added to the ocean in other parts of the world.
This demonstrates the substantial need to overhaul our trash and recycling practices in the United States.
What Effects does Ocean Plastic Have on Marine Life?
The plastic in the ocean is often fatal to many different species of marine life. According to Greenpeace, about one million seabirds and 100 thousand marine mammals are killed every year due to plastic pollution.
Shocking facts about plastic and marine life:
- Over 90% of all seabirds have plastic in their stomachs.
- More than two-thirds of the world’s fish stocks are suffering from plastic ingestion.
- 700 species of marine animals are in danger of extinction due to plastic.
- The population of tuna has declined by 74% since 1970
- 1 in 4 shark species is threatened with extinction.
Plastic is something that doesn’t biodegrade, meaning it poisons animals when they ingest plastic thinking it’s food.
One plastic bag can take up to a thousand years to biodegrade, meaning plastic pollution is something that will continue harming marine life for the next few centuries.
What Can You do to Reduce Plastic Waste in Our Oceans?
Fortunately, plastic pollution is a problem that can be solved. There are many simple things we can do to reduce plastic waste in our oceans and help protect marine life.
- Use reusable shopping bags for dry groceries
- Refuse plastic straws at restaurants
- Don’t litter plastic bottles or food containers in the ocean
- Carry Re-usable silverware in your purse or easy to use locations
- Have a reusable food container in your car to use for leftovers and take out instead of styrofoam
Refuse Single-Use Plastics
By refusing plastic products and plastic bags, we can reduce our plastic waste.
- Support eco-friendly businesses that carry reusable items, including silverware and reusable grocery bags for your dry groceries.
- Bring a small food container with you when going out to eat so that if you order take out you can avoid plastic containers and plastic utensils.
- Refuse single-use plastics such as straws when going to a restaurant.
- Carry reusable silverware with you for those times that you end up in a situation where plastic utensils are the only option available.
These actions will reduce the plastic pollution in our oceans and help protect marine life.
Vote for Candidates Interested in Climate Issues
Vote for people who are concerned about plastic in the ocean and care about climate issues. If you want to reduce plastic pollution, then your elected officials must have environmentalist views as well.
These candidates will work towards protecting our environment, marine life, and even future generations by trying to stop plastic from getting into oceans altogether.
Vote for people who are pro-environment and plastic-free by looking up the political views of your representatives and voting accordingly.
By doing this, we will reduce ocean plastic pollution and protect marine life in our oceans!
Donate to Nonprofits that Protect Our Oceans from Plastic Pollution
There are many nonprofits out there that are working hard to protect our oceans from plastic pollution. One example of such a nonprofit is Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC). They “work toward the day when there is no more plastic pollution in our land or sea” and they do so by:
- educating people on plastic pollution
- working towards changes in policy
- hosting plastic-free ocean events, such as the Global Day of Action for our Oceans.
By donating to organizations like PPC, we can help protect marine life and reduce plastic pollution in our oceans.
Help with Beach Cleanups
Participating in beach clean-ups is a way you can take action. You’ll help pick up plastic that might have ended up on the shore, reduce plastic waste, and make the ocean a cleaner place for marine life!
If you live near an ocean, or even just want to do something about plastic pollution, then this is one of the most effective ways to help reduce plastic waste.
You can find a beach clean-up by checking online for ocean plastic pollution events taking place near you.
By doing something as simple as picking up plastic on the shore, we’re helping to protect marine life and reducing plastic pollution!
These are just a few of the many simple things you can do to reduce plastic pollution and protect marine life. What other ways have you found to help? Let us know! If we all work together, plastic pollution will become less of an issue.
Plastic is a serious issue that is affecting the entire planet. It’s important to understand the seriousness of plastic pollution and make immediate changes.
By reducing plastic pollution, we can help reduce plastic waste and protect marine life. There are a few simple steps that you can take right now, such as refusing single-use plastics.
This isn’t an issue that is going to go away on its own. Without action from us all, it will affect future generations for decades to come.
Other Great Eco Friendly Articles
TweetShareSharePin22 SharesPlastic is a part of our everyday lives. It’s used to make single-use bags, bottles, straws, and take-out containers. The overuse of plastic is …
If you’re trying to oxygenate the air in your home, then we have just the article for you. With so many pollutants and chemicals in …
Can shaving cream cans be recycled? That is the question that many shaving cream consumers ask themselves when they are deciding what to do with …