Plastic Oceans: The Epidemic That is Ruining Our Oceans

Think of items you use every day: toothbrushes, baggies for your lunches, packaging… you’ll be hard-pressed to think of something that isn’t made out of plastic. We are producing 30 million tons of plastic each year, half of which is for just one use. We have created what is called a “disposable lifestyle”- half of the plastic we use is for a single use. The problem is that many of the characteristics that make plastic great for everyday life also cause it to wreak havoc on our environment. We’ve traded environmental responsibility for convenience.

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There is no way to eliminate all the plastic from our lives, and let’s be honest, some of it is completely necessary. Medical advances, technology, food safety, etc. all depend on plastic. But there are some ways we can clean up the unnecessary plastic from our lives.

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“More than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped in the ocean each year.”

We need to change the way we think about plastic and start critically thinking about the world around us and the effects we are having on it. In 2010, 215 metric tons of plastic were found in the ocean. Over the last 10 years, we have produced more plastic than over the last century. This is irresponsible and unnecessary, but it’s not a simple fix. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is the plastic ocean we’ve created – and it won’t be taken down in a day either. However, if we prep the future, educate our children, and teach them about the consequences of our actions, then maybe we can right some of the wrongs we’ve done here.

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Plastic takes 400 years to degrade, so it will be here for the foreseeable future. So, let’s start teaching the future about ways to be better. We can’t undo what’s already happened, but we can prevent it from happening again.

There are 405 plus dead zones found in the world’s oceans. These are areas where nitrification has exhausted the oxygen in the water making it not suitable for most life forms. The largest and best known of these is the Great Garbage Patch in the North Pacific — a concentrated soup of microplastics, or tiny fragments less than 5 millimeters across. It is really hard to quantify just how much plastic is in the ocean, but the latest figures estimate there are up to 51 trillion particles or 236,000 tons.

Why does it matter?

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Plastic also gets caught in bird’s bills, wrapped around fins, or entangles an animal so it cannot move. Ingestion is almost always fatal. We are wiping out ocean species, depleting the ocean of life and its resources. We are greedily destroying our world.

97% of the earth’s water supply is found in the oceans. Plastic is being eaten by marine life, and we are consuming animals that consume plastic. Fish in the North Pacific ingest 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic each year. We are indirectly ingesting plastic through our food chain. It’s not just the actual plastic; even after plastic degrades, it leaves harmful bi-products in the ocean.

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”- Abraham Lincoln

Ways to get your kids involved

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Talk to them and explain to your kids what is going on and why we need to protect our oceans. Don’t coddle them, tell the truth: time is not on our side. The more they know, the more they will grow up aware.

More than 1 million bags are used every minute.

Plastic bags: This one is pretty easy: bring your own bags or use paper. However, the actual remembering to bring the bags can be hard (as if parents don’t have enough to remember)! So, put those kids to work. Kids almost never forget, so get them to help remind you, “Hey Mom, don’t forget your reusable bags!”

Reusable sandwich bags: So often the go-to for kid’s lunches are baggies. Today there are so many fun options to use instead of one-time use plastic. First off there are reusable containers – however – they are generally made from plastic; while reusing plastic is better than one-time use plastic, it’s still detrimental. There is another option; there also fun reusable cotton bags and silicone bags.

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14% of all litter comes from beverage containers.

Beverage bottles: Billions of plastic beverages bottles are sold each year. These are single-use bottles. Instead of packing your kid’s lunch with plastic bottles, buy a reusable water bottle. Camelbak and Contigo make awesome water bottles for kids.

Speak out: Pressure business and government to change their policies – plastic is cheap so it’s cost-effective, but sometimes doing the right thing may not always be the easiest. Write to your government officials, contact businesses, and send letters of concern. Get your child involved by sending letters or pictures asking for a change.

The Three R’s: Recycle – any and everything. Reuse as much as you can – get creative: make a bird feeder, turn it into art, or reuse as a project – just try to eliminate a one time use plastic. Next, reduce – try to buy earth-friendly products, products that don’t use as much plastic in unnecessary packaging.

The future starts now, come together and create a future with less plastic.

Looking for innovative ways to reuse plastic? Check out our article on 8 Reasons To Choose Recycled Plastic for Outdoor Activities .

Sources: Plastic Oceans, ABC news
Photo Credit: Kevin Krejci, USFWS- Pacific Region, Edinburgh Greens, Ashley W

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