Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Photo Credit: Marine Debris NOAA
Today is Earth Day 2018. The theme this year is End Plastic Pollution in response to the exponential growth of plastic waste that now poses a threat to human survival owing to its un-biodegradable nature. When exposed to water, sun, or other elements, our plastic waste breaks down into tiny particles invisible to the naked eye. These particles – called microplastics – now contaminate our drinking water, seafood, or even the salt we add to our meals.
Earth Day Network (EDN) sums up the scope of this threat with the following 10 facts of plastic in our oceans.
Plastic waste floating in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Honduras
Photo Credit: U.K. Daily Mail
Fact #1 – About 8 million metric tons of plastic enter our oceans every year.
Fact #2 – Five massive patches of plastics are growing in the oceans worldwide. The one between California and Hawaii is the size of the state of Texas.
Fact #3 – Every minute, one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into our oceans.
Fact #4 – The amount of plastic in the ocean is set to increase tenfold by 2020.
Fact #5 – By 2050 plastic in the oceans will outweigh the fish.
Fact #6 – Plastic is contaminating remote depths of the ocean.
Fact #7 – Marine organisms and animals are starving to death with undigested plastic in their stomachs.
Fact #8 – Contact with marine plastic increases disease in coral reefs, home to more than 25 percent of marine life.
Fact #9 – The Great Pacific Garbage Patch contains more plastic than natural prey upon which fish feed.
Fact #10 – Many fish humans consume have ingested plastic microfibers.
Plastics are everywhere: in our furniture, construction materials, cars, appliances, electronics, and countless other things. According to a New York Times article (07/19/2017), the spread of plastic packaging is the main cause for the increase in plastic production. In 2015, packaging accounted for 42 percent of non-fiber plastic produced. That year, packaging also made up 54 percent of plastics thrown away.
Man in Nigerian village builds home with plastic bottles
Photo Credit: Take Part (Aminu Abubakar/Getty Images)
Want to know how much disposable plastic you use in a year? Check out EDN’s online Plastics Pollution Calculator. The list of items consumed daily include bottles, cups, straws, cotton swabs with plastic sticks, cigarette butts (who knew?), resealable bags, cling wrap, eating utensils, stirrers, and food containers.
For tips on how to reduce your plastic consumption, you can also download their Plastic Pollution Primer and Toolkit. Practice the 5Rs – Reduce, Refuse, Reuse, Recycle, and Remove (beach and river clean-up). Find out what others are doing in the USA and worldwide.
Timberland Boots made from Haiti Recycled Plastic Bottles
Photo Credit: The Haitian Internet
The mindless dumping of our plastic waste and its mismanagement have come back to torment us. After over a century of enjoying the benefits of plastic, we must now start cutting back. Habits die hard. When will we humans learn?