Plastic is a cheap useful material that has transformed our lives over the past few decades. From water bottles to smartphones, plastic is always at our fingertips. But, it also causes enormous harm to the environment, plastic pollution is particularly damaging our oceans.
Covering over 70% of the planet, the ocean provides a home to countless species. It keeps the air clean, serves as a valuable food source, and much much more. This vital ecosystem is being damaged by plastic pollution. Including chemicals, industrial waste, and oil spills, but plastic is the most serious of all.
An Ocean of Plastic
Roughly eight million metric tons of plastic pollution end up in our oceans every year. Unfortunately, predictions show this increasing tenfold in the next decade. Plastic typically takes many decades to decompose, while some can take millions of years. Now, that’s a very long time!
Since its invention in 1852, most of the plastic produced on the planet is still polluting the planet.
Most plastic pollution in the ocean comes from countries along the coastline. Particularly those who live less than 30 miles from the beach. But even plastic transported to landfill sites can end up in the ocean. A simple gust of wind can blow waste into rivers, which delivers it back to the ocean.
There’s also a big problem with abandoned fishing equipment. It can entangle larger sea creatures, such as seals and dolphins, and break down into microplastics over time. Microbeads are another major factor. Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic found in toiletries. Such as face scrubs, shower gel, and toothpaste. Things that we use every day. Plastics experience erosion too. Just like rocks, forming plastic grains and microplastics.
Plastic in the food chain
Wastewater plants struggle to filter out microbeads. They’re just too small. They end up making their way into the sea. In the ocean, small hungry fish can easily gobble up these tiny pieces of plastic. Once they eat the plastic it remains within them. Small fish get eaten, mostly by larger fish. Which in turn, get eaten by larger fish. And so forth and so on, resulting in plastic entering the food chain. As larger animals tend to eat more than the smaller ones, they eat more plastic overall. Meaning plastic becomes more concentrated further up the food chain. This is known as bioaccumulation. Unsurprisingly, this does some damage to sea life.
What can we do to help tackle plastic pollution?
Simple changes, such as cutting down on single-use plastics can really help. Start using reusable carrier bags for your shopping, buy a steel straw and get toiletries from environmentally responsible retailers. Another easy thing to do is to stop buying bottled water – simply buy a reusable bottle and top up as you go!
All of these things will help reduce your plastic pollution footprint, and although we have a long way to go before our oceans are clean and safe, these small steps can go a long way.