As summer approaches, many of us dream of days spent lounging at the beach. What could be better? Sun on your skin (don’t forget sunscreen!), sand between your toes, and when it gets too hot, there’s nothing more refreshing than a quick dip in the water. Except, of course, if that water is filled with plastic.
As land dwellers, we certainly encounter our fair share of plastic trash. It litters our sidewalks and roads, and pours into landfills minute after minute (That’s a scary thought, huh?). When we go to the beach for the day, we may encounter trash in the sand – perhaps a couple wrappers scattered about, a plastic water bottle here and there … certainly gross to the eye, but certainly .. .digestible. Figuratively, that is.
Sadly, plastic is quite literally digestible for the millions of marine animals that inhabit the ocean … or rather, it is digested by marine animals every single day. The trash we find on the beach is only a glimpse – a nano-glimpse! – of the actual amount of trash that fills the ocean. Take a look at this picture of a surfer riding the waves of a garbage-covered bay in Java, Indonesia, to get a better idea of what lies beneath the ocean surface.
Taken by Zak Noyle, this photo perfectly illustrates a quote by ocean conservationist, scientist, diplomat Jacques-Yves Cousteau: “Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.”
They certainly have. Down the line, we’ll be swimming in a swamp of plastic: By 2050, it’s estimated that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Did you get that? Let’s read it once more, just to really process it … there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. And there’s only one group to blame – humans.
Every year, over 300 million tons of plastic materials come into circulation. That seems like a whole lot, but it’s a bit hard to fathom. However, when you look around you or think about your daily plastic use, it becomes clear that the amount of plastic we generate is off the charts. For even the most conscious among us, plastic can sometimes seem unavoidable: someone hands you a plastic bag before you can refuse it (but remember, you can always refuse!); you’re dying of thirst and a plastic water bottle’s the only source within reach; you order something from Amazon and your tiny purchase comes with more bubble wrap than you even knew existed; or you’re just dying for some Chinese take-out, which means dumplings with a side of styrofoam. We’ve all been there. The problem is, how do we get away from that?
Some turn to recycling as a viable answer. Sadly, however, 85 percent of the world’s plastic is not recycled. Instead, it winds up being sent to the landfill, and ultimately, the ocean. To be precise, 8.8 million tons of plastic are now sailing the ocean blue. And the plastic doesn’t stop just at bags and bottles – fish are also ingesting microbeads that come from face wash, cosmetics, and toothpaste. And even the microfibers from our synthetic clothing are to blame! It’s little known that every time a single piece of synthetic clothing is washed, it releases 1,900 plastic microfibers into the water. Because the fibers and other microplastics are too small to be filtered out,they end up washed out to sea – where they quickly encounter marine life.
On plastic’s eternal journey through the marine environment, around 700 marine species are being put in danger due to the threat it poses to them from entanglement, pollution, and ingestion. Is that the price of convenience? It’s hard to justify our convenience in the face of the utter devastation of marine life. We’ve got to #CrushPlastic before it’s too late.
What Can YOU Do?
While efforts are being made to remove debris from the oceans, improve recycling systems, and innovate barriers to prevent plastic from getting into waterways, we can all take action in our daily lives to stop plastic waste at the source.
“Plastic is ubiquitous in modern society and seemingly unavoidable. But is it worth risking the lives of marine species, the health of the oceans and our own future in the name of convenience? By taking steps to minimize everyday plastics in our lives, we can crush plastic at the source and give marine life a fighting chance,” says Nil Zacharias, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of One Green Planet.
If we all make an effort to identify where we use plastic and actively look for alternatives, we can drastically cut down on the amount of plastic pollution that finds its way into the oceans.
As the leading organization at the forefront of the conscious consumerism movement, One Green Planet believes that reducing everyday plastics from our lives is not about giving up anything or sacrificing convenience, but rather learning to reap the maximum benefit from the items you use every day while having the minimum impact.
Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.
All Image Source: Zak Noyle