“There is no away – because plastic is so permanent and so indestructible. When you cast it into the ocean, it does not go away.”
– Sir David Attenborough
Plastic is an incredibly valuable resource to us as human beings – used in everything from electronics to food containers. We love it so much that every year we produce up to 300 million tonnes of the stuff, but incredibly 8 million tonnes of this ends up in the Oceans. 1 in 3 marine mammals have been found entangled in ocean litter and 90%, yes 90% of all sea birds have plastic pieces in their stomachs! Plastic pollution is not just a global issue that impacts our ocean, but also our health and wellbeing as humans. Not to mention it can take hundreds of years to break down completely.
Every year the Ocean Conservancy put together a mass global clean up event on coastlines across the world. Back in 2015 they collected almost 1 million plastic bottles, 800,000 plastic bottle caps, and about half a million each of plastic bags and drinking straws — in one day. The results are now in for 2017 and it’s shocking – International Coastal Cleanup 2017 Report Over 1.5 million plastic bottles, 822 227 plastic bottle caps, over 520 000 grocery bags but alarmingly over 1.8 million cigarette butts!! It’s these single use items that are the main culprits but they can be easily disposed of responsibly.
One in three leatherback turtles, which often mistake plastic bags for edible jellyfish, have been found with plastic in their stomachs and in February this year, a dead whale beached on Norway’s coast had 30 plastic bags in its stomach! As mentioned previously, 90% of seabirds, including albatross and petrels, are now eating plastics on a regular basis. By 2050, that figure is expected to rise to 100%. That’s every single sea bird with plastic inside of it! Back in 2015 a heartbreaking video circulated online showing a sea turtle having a plastic straw being pulled out of its nose.
Picture Credit – National Geographic – see how it feels to be an animal stuck in a plastic bag
It’s not just the obvious plastic items such a bottles that we need to be concerned about. Micro-plastics are the smaller plastic fragments, such as the ones found in sea birds, and are destroying the Ocean from the inside out. They present a real hazard to biodiversity and to the food chain. This ultimately leads to us! No Ocean, no humans!! The scary thing is that a lot of these plastic fragments come from products that people aren’t even aware contain plastic. Microbeads can be found in facial cleansers, toothpaste and even bubble bath.
The Guardian have recently published an interesting article explaining where all this plastic ends up after being dumped into the Ocean. It shocking how far it across the Ocean it can travel.
“Plastic Oceans deserves the support and participation of all of us who hope to bequeath a liveable world to future generations.”
– Noam Chomsky
The reality is we’ve probably all contributed to this in some way, possibly unknowingly but just how much longer can it go on for? For me personally, Iv’e only really started to understand the scale of the issue, over the past 18 months or so. Prior to this I was blissfully unaware of how big a problem this actually is. Education is key.