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REINVENTING THE WORLD WITH PLASTICS

Plastic Ocean

Marine life calls for help – How prepared are we?

Plastics are “cheap & durable”- This justifies why plastic is irreplaceable and also how it’s the biggest threat to our planet.

Every year, plastic production growth accounts for over 4% and with this, the problem of managing plastic trash remains uncurbed. Technologies have evolved over the decades but our plastic recycling rate still stands at 9% only. And the remaining waste is dumped into landfills or is diverted towards oceans.

How Plastic Reaches The Oceans?

Approx. 10 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year, and this accounts for 80% of the total marine debris. The main route of Plastic Ocean pollution can be attributed to the intended disposal of the plastic waste directly into water bodies. Other sources are flood or rain runoffs from the land, overflowing of the sewers, and industrial activities.

Shorelines have been majorly polluted by visitors and the people residing near these areas. Such impetuous action has created hindrance in the cleanup initiatives over time. Get a wider picture plastic pollution in the Ocean in the report given by wwf.org.uk

Plastic has managed to reach the deepest point on the planet- 11,000 meters below sea level.

Major Contributors Of Plastic Pollution In The Oceans

Major contributors of plastic pollution

Macro-Sized

The majority of the plastic trash found in oceans is single-use plastic. This is contributed by the rivers and due to the negligent disposal of waste by beach-goers. Each year 2.5 million tonnes of plastic reaches the ocean from river systems, of which China’s Yangtze alone contributes around 1.5 million tonnes of plastic trash.

The Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup 2017 Report stated that if total plastic straws collected from all the beaches were stacked over one other, it would have stood 145 times higher than the One World Trade Center in New York City and all the cigarette lighters collected would have stood 10 times higher than the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

The trash in the ocean varies from cigarettes to fishing nets. Below listed are the top 10 items found out during the Ocean Conservancy cleanup initiative.

  • Cigarettes (2,117,931)
  • Food wrappers / Containers (1,140,222)
  • Beverage Bottles (1,065,171)
  • Plastic Bags (1,019,902)
  • Caps / Lids (958,893)
  • Cups, plates, forks, knives, spoons (692,767)
  • Straws / Stirrers (611,048)
  • Glass beverage bottles (521,730)
  • Beverage cans (339,875)
  • Paper Bags (298,332)

Micro-Sized

This segment of plastic is hard to trace and is available in abundance in oceans. Microplastic is engineered to size less than 5mm to be used in cosmetic products and personal care products. These microbeads are hard to filter out and are easily carried away by water bodies. Scientists have started looking out for microplastic hotspots in the ocean, but no data on micro marine plastic is available.

How Plastic In The Ocean Is A Threat To The Ecosystem?

The viral video of a sea turtle with plastic lodged in its nostril, seabirds getting stuck in fishing nets, marine life feeding on plastic has been the most threatening and alarming reality of today.

1. Resemblance To Food

Prolonged exposure of plastic to seawater leads to the accumulation of algae, microbes, and toxic contaminants over its surface. The microorganisms release odor which is misinterpreted as food to various sea animals. Feeding on this plastic trash which is toxic as well affects their growth and reproductive system leading to the death of the sea animals. 100 million marine animals die each year because of plastic waste.

2. Contaminating The Food Web

Due to weathering, plastic gets sized down. This microplastic mimics plankton- which is consumed by hundreds of species. The same then travels up the food chain, impacting the entire ecosystem.

It is expected that by 2050, plastic will outweigh all the fish in the ocean.

3. The Coastal Tourism And Other Livelihood Dependent On Seas

Plastic trash found along the coastlines has been affecting the tourism industry over the past few years. Coastal tourism alone accounts for 80% of the total tourism industry. Where plastic has been compromising on the aesthetic value of beaches for the visitors, still there has been no reduction in plastic pollution caused by beachgoers. 

Also, according to The European Union (EU), the losses reported by fishing sector in 2018 reached 61.7 Million Euros.

Plastic waste has impacted 800 marine species through entanglement, ingestion, or damage to their habitats.

We don’t want our oceans to become garbage soup. We have contributed to littering our oceans, and now the same efforts are needed to reverse this process. We need to be more aware of how and where we are dumping our waste. There are several reasons due to which the waste from our bins do not get recycled. Only we can reduce our per capita plastic footprint and save the oceans.

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