Ocean plastic pollution is a huge problem in the world today. It’s estimated that more than 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year. That’s the equivalent of a truck full of plastic garbage dumped into the ocean every minute!
This is bad news for marine life, as plastic can be harmful or deadly to sea creatures. Plastic pollution also affects human health, releasing toxins into the water.
At the recently concluded UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5), world environmental ministers agreed to form a committee to create a legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution.
As Espen Barth Eide, Norway’s Minister for Climate and the Environment, and UNEA-5’s president stated, “Plastic pollution has grown into an epidemic. With today’s resolution, we are officially on track for a cure.”
The resolution is an excellent step in ending ocean plastic pollution. But, it’s a long way from resolution to action on the ground. So what can we start doing right now to stop plastic from getting into the ocean?
First, by understanding the problem.
What is ocean plastic pollution?
Ocean plastic pollution is the dumping of plastic waste into the oceans and other marine ecosystems. Every day, 8 million metric tons of plastic enter our oceans.
The plastic can come from all sorts of places, including coastal cities, rivers, and even the ocean itself.
Once plastic enters the ocean, it’s carried by currents to all corners of the globe. It can then end up in the stomachs of marine animals, who often mistake it for food. As a result, many animals die from choking or ingesting large amounts of toxic plastics.
Plastic also breaks down into tiny pieces over time, which fish and other sea creatures can ingest. This leads to health problems for those creatures and humans who eat them.
Marine ecosystems are struggling to cope with the influx of plastic waste, which is causing serious damage to marine life and habitats.
If anything, the problem has only gotten worse during the pandemic. Waste from our efforts to control the pandemic, including PPEs, masks, gloves, etc., is showing up in the oceans.
The impact of plastic pollution on marine life is devastating. Guess what, too; the plastic is ending up on your plate!
The effects of plastic pollution on marine ecosystems
Marine ecosystems are one of the most adversely affected by ocean plastic pollution. This form of pollution causes harm to marine life in various ways. For example, ocean plastic pollution can:
- block sunlight and stunt the growth of ocean plants
- choke and kill marine animals that ingest it
- contaminate seafood with toxins that can be harmful to people
In addition to the devastating effects ocean plastic pollution has on marine life, it also poses a severe threat to human health.
The toxins released from ocean plastic can accumulate in the food chain, ultimately leading to contaminated seafood being consumed by humans.
These toxins can cause health problems such as cancer, congenital disabilities, and reproductive issues.
Ocean plastic pollution is a significant problem that requires urgent attention. But what can you do to help?
7 ways to stop ocean plastic pollution
There are many things we can do to reduce our reliance on plastic and help stop ocean plastic pollution. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Reduce reliance on plastic bags and packaging
One way to help reduce ocean plastic pollution is to reduce our reliance on plastic bags and packaging.
Many grocery stores now charge for plastic bags, which has helped reduce the number of bags being used.
You can also bring your own reusable shopping bag when you go to the store.
2. Recycle plastic waste whenever possible
One of the best ways to stop plastic from ending up in our oceans is to recycle it whenever possible. If we can keep plastic out of landfills, it will reduce the amount that enters our waterways.
Cities, towns, and institutions across the country are starting to offer recycling programs for plastic waste, so be sure to check with your local municipality to see what’s available.
3. Say no to single-use plastics
Plastic is a commonly used material, but it often ends up in the wrong places – like our oceans. It’s estimated that there are over 5 trillion pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans, and this number is only growing.
The good news is that we can all do our part to reduce the amount of plastic in the oceans. Here are some ways to reduce your use of single-use plastics:
- Bring your own reusable shopping bag when you go grocery shopping.
- Bring a reusable water bottle with you instead of using disposable plastic bottles.
- Say no to straws – many restaurants have started to offer straws upon request only.
- Bring your own utensils with you when you eat out.
These are just a few ways to reduce your single-use plastic consumption. By making small changes in our everyday lives, we can help make a big difference in the fight against ocean plastic pollution.
4. Choose products packaged in recyclable materials
Another way to help reduce the amount of plastic in our oceans is to consciously choose products packaged in recyclable materials.
For example, buy items that come in cardboard boxes rather than those wrapped in plastic; bring your own cloth shopping bags to the store instead of using disposable plastic bags; and look for products with minimal packaging.
If every person made a small effort to reduce the amount of plastic they use, it would make a big difference in the fight against ocean pollution.
5. Educate yourself and others about the dangers of ocean plastic pollution
Educating yourself and others on ocean plastic pollution is a great way to tackle the problem.
Did you know that there are now more pieces of plastic in the ocean than there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy?
And that by 2050, there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish? It’s true – and it’s a problem that we urgently need to address.
One of the main ways that plastic enters our oceans is through rivers.
When we dispose of plastic waste improperly, it often ends up in our waterways, where it’s carried out to sea.
Once there, it breaks down into small pieces that are often mistaken for food by marine life. This can have serious consequences for their health and survival.
In addition to harming marine life, ocean plastic pollution also hurts our economy and environment.
It costs the global economy billions of dollars each year, and it’s a major contributor to climate change.
6. Support legislation that aims to reduce plastic pollution
Another way to help reduce the amount of plastic littering our oceans is to support legislation aimed at reducing plastic waste.
One example is the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which prohibits the manufacturing and sale of personal care products containing microbeads in the United States.
7. Support campaigns to stop ocean plastic pollution
There are many campaigns to stop ocean plastic pollution at every level. We can all do our part to keep our oceans clean and healthy! Here are a few examples:
The 5 Gyres Institute: This organization is dedicated to reducing the amount of plastic in the ocean by conducting research and promoting education and advocacy initiatives.
The Ocean Conservancy: This organization leads international marine debris removal campaigns and advocates for policy changes to reduce ocean plastic pollution.
Project AWARE: This organization focuses on educating divers about the impact of ocean plastic pollution on the ocean environment.
Plastic pollution often starts with someone carelessly discarding a piece of trash, so be sure to dispose of your plastic waste properly.
Together, we can make a difference in the fight against ocean plastic pollution. By taking these simple steps, you can help reduce the plastic pollution in our world.