Every year, millions of families, friends, college kids, grandparents, single men and women, and every other group of people visit the beach. They lay their towels down on the warm sand, lather up on sunscreen, set down the cooler and open a chilled soda and sandwich, and listen to the waves wash up on shore. A brother and sister throw a volleyball around, making sure to hit a napping old man in his lawn chair. A little girl and her father are jumping and diving into the waves, and the little girl screams for joy.
She laughs and shouts and jumps on her father- until she fells something forcefully press up against her leg. To her horror, a dead dolphin washes up tangled in a fishing net. She cries, sobs, and screams about how unfair it is that the poor dolphin died. She is absolutely right- it is unfair and a hard reality. The dead dolphin will turn into 10, 20, 30- along with many other species.
She is forever traumatized from the beach, and a problem is presented. The plastic contamination in the oceans are unsustainable and detrimental to marine life and human health.
As the global population gets larger and larger, the negative effects and the strain humans put on resources grows as well- explicitly on our seas. Created to make living simpler and more convenient, Leo Hendrik Baekeland created a strong, lightweight material known as plastic. Plastic materials incorporate plastic sacks and containers, angling nets, and six pack rings- all of which pollute oceans and pose a great danger to marine life.
The issue was noticed in the 1970’s, however, was ignored and “swept under the rug”. After 40 years, the overwhelming impact of plastic trash on natural life, untamed life territories, and people became obvious and evident.. Plastic contamination has never been until fairly recently appropriately perceived by society or the administration. Understanding the effect plastic flotsam and jetsam has on untamed life, living spaces, and people is fundamental during the time spent addressing the issue of plastic contamination.
The main reports of plastic flotsam and jetsam started in the mid 1970\'s, yet had next to zero consideration. As years advanced and plastic trash exacerbated, the issue at long last started to raise concern. Plastic is not biodegradable, which implies it cannot decay, but rather breaks down into smaller pieces . In the previous fifty years, plastic creation and utilization have ascended at a pace of four percent every year2. Americans alone dispose of thirty million tons of plastic daily, which only eight percent of which is reused. The rest of the trash winds up in landfills or seas3. In 2015, an investigation directed by the UC Santa Barbara\'s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis assessed the measure of plastic trash from land into the sea. The examination uncovered that 8,000,000 metric tons of plastic end up in our seas every year and assessed the contribution to be multiple times the 8,000,000 metric tons by 20254.
Plastic garbage in the seas comes into contact and upset the lives of thousands of creatures regular. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration appraises that plastic trash takes the life of one hundred thousand marine creatures every year5. \"Entrapment, ingestion, and natural surroundings disturbance all outcome from plastic winding up in the spaces where creatures live,\" clarifies an individual from the plastic contamination alliance, which has begun the biggest development toward a plastic free world in America5. More than 693 species have been recorded as contaminated with plastic pieces, with 400 of those experiencing ensnarement and ingestion6. Snares (a trap for catching birds or animals) directly influence an expected 200 marine species. Entrapment impairs the creature’s versatility which brings about difficulty eating, breathing, and swimming7 . Plastic that is ingested gags the animal and harms the stomach and other internal processes8. The plastic gets stuck in the gut and will not pass through, leaving the creatures feeling full from plastic. This prompts a lack of healthy diet and causes starvation of proper nutrients9. In 2015, another study was produced showing an overall 817 species with ingested plastic, up 23% from a 2012 study10 . Ingestion disturbs every single marine species, from shrimp and ocean turtles to sea lions and whales. In 2008, a perished whale washed up along the shore of a British sea. Post-mortem examination uncovered a stomach brimming with plastic flotsam and jetsam11.
Plastic sacks in the Bay of Biscay [in western Europe] range more than 120 miles from shore in waters more than 4,000 meters inside and out. Curved whale species, specifically, are especially defenseless to gulping plastic packs as they are accepted to emphatically take after their objective prey, squid. Different types of whales, which take huge pieces of water during sustaining, take in plastic packs coincidentally and thus are likewise in danger12. Sea shores, shorelines, and ocean floors are similarly affected. Any shoreline is vulnerable to being victim of plastic contamination in one way or another. A portion of the Laysan Island sea shores, separation of the Hawaiian Islands, are covered up in five to ten feet of plastic trash13. The rest of the sea shores are canvassed in \"plastic sand,\" which is grain-like bits of plastic. An expected 70% of plastic pieces sinks to the sea depths14. The deadly rundown proceeds and becomes regular.
The oceans depend on people for prosperity. Similarly, humans depend on the oceans just as much- if not more. Overall, people devour thirty-seven pounds of marine life per individual every year. Ongoing investigations propose humans might be consuming impressive measures of micro plastics from those creatures. Micro plastics are characterized as plastic particles not noticeable to the unaided eye. In spite of the fact that these plastics are minute, their negative effect is extraordinary. Channel feeders, including shrimp and mollusks, devour many micro plastics, which in turn harms much of the food chain since they are consumed by various marine species such as people. An examination led in 2015 discovered twenty-eight percent of fish and shellfish sold in a California advertise contained plastic flotsam and jetsam in their stomach related tracts15. Like direct utilization of plastic, the dangerous synthetic substances from the plastic materials spill into the water and splash into marine creatures through the skin16. Plastic is dangerous for humans in many ways. Direct toxins in plastics come from lead, cadmium, and mercury. These toxins have also been found in many fish in the ocean, which is very dangerous for humans. Diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) is a toxic carcinogen. This substance is often used in plastic production. Other toxins in plastics can be directly linked to cancers, birth defects, immune system problems, and childhood developmental issues17. Whether it be consumption of plastic debris or plastic toxins, both humans and animals are negatively impacted as the food chain continues. Additionally, the degradation of plastic in the sun contributes a large role in global warming. Plastic is made from crude oil and natural gas, known as fossil fuels. Greenhouse gasses are emitted when the sun degrades these materials. These gasses damage the atmosphere and increase the global climate18.
The issue of plastic pollution is unarguable and beyond question, which generates the question: “Why is it still an issue?” While solving the issue of plastic pollution may seem easy and clear, the reality is not so simple. The problem requires individuals and companies around the world to practice sufficient methods to eliminate waste altogether. As an example, the organization Net Positiva works everyday in hopes to eliminate waste. Net Positiva is located in Chile, which is one of the largest fishing industries in the world. There, they collect worn out fishing net and convert them into skateboards. Fishing nets make up around 10% of the ocean’s total pollution, and is the most common cause of direct marine creature death19. Within just one year, the program collected over one hundred and ten thousand pounds of fishing net-, which is not even a fraction of what remains. Additionally, individuals can have an equivalent impact as organizations protecting our oceans. Sarah Engler, with the Natural Resources Defense Council, discusses ways of prevention for individuals everywhere in her article, “10 Ways to Reduce Plastic Pollution”. Engler begins by justifying her solutions, “it only takes a few times of…before it becomes a habit”20. Her solutions include taking reusable grocery bags to the store, cooking more often than eating out, recycling, and involving corporations by “hitting them where it hurts,” meaning give your money to companies who support the plastic pollution movement as well21. The improvement of plastic pollution depends on people all over the world to acquire new habits or join and support organizations to fight the issue. Every year in the United States alone, over 182.5 billion plastic straws are used, thrown away, and add to the pollution. This adds up to over 73,000 metric tons of plastic straws per year. The problem of plastic pollution can be reduced significantly with little changes to everyday routines.
Despite organizational and individual efforts all over the world, government action is also crucial for long-term elimination of plastic debris. People differ in opinion about who and what should take overall ownership for plastic pollution- is plastic the problem or is plastic’s disposal the problem? Government involvement is absolutely necessary. For a consumer who uses plastic because it is the most cost effective option for his or her household, the responsibility is handed to the producers of said products. Making ‘environmentally friendly\' products are a burden for these companies for they have responsibilities to their shareholders, investors, employees, etc., and need to base their decisions on staying competitive. Ultimately, the consumer has very little power in a position of desperation. However, voters are able to lobby their elected officials to pass legislation that regulates manufacturers and recycling, since companies have no power over the government.
Government action eliminates initial blame, such as, “someone other than me is responsible” and allows action and revision to take place. Local, state, and national governments have taken some action toward the issue. In 2013, numerous states across the United States began the plastic bag fee, which requires businesses selling food or beverages to charge a five-cent fee for plastic bags22. One to two cents goes to the retailer and the remainder goes to the Anacostia River fund, which promotes public education and provides reusable bags to people; within the first month, there was a drop from twenty-two million bags used per month to three million and six million dollars was given to the Anacostia River foundation23. Similarly, in hopes to maintain plastic manufacturers, some states in the U.S. began the state deposit refund system. The system includes a product charge, which chargers manufacturers fifteen to twenty-five cents per container they produce that is not recycled24. Oregon reported a seventy-five percent to eighty-five percent decrease in roadside litter within two years of using the system25. Government involvement along with organizational and individual efforts may be the origin of plastic debris elimination.
Plastic Pollution is an issue that should not be taken lightly. Billions of lives depend on oceans to be sustained- including humans and marine life. After considering the distressing circumstances that marine life faces as well as the direct impact on human health, it is nearly impossible to deny the issue at hand. The oceans cannot sustain the pollution and contamination they face, and if not addressed soon, plastic pollution could very well be earth’s demise.