I once read that every piece of plastic ever created still exists. For example, it is estimated that it will take 450 -1000 years for a plastic liter bottle to decompose. Even biodegradable trash doesn’t disintegrate in a landfill because of the lack of oxygen.
When they were looking for the wreckage of Malaysian flight #370 in March of 2014, satellites kept showing possible debris areas. Often they later discovered the satellites were picking up debris that was not related to the flight.
A 2011 EPA report said, “The primary source of marine debris is the improper waste disposal or management of trash and manufacturing products, including plastics (e.g., littering, illegal dumping) … Debris is generated on land at marinas, ports, rivers, harbors, docks, and storm drains. Debris is generated at sea from fishing vessels, stationary platforms and cargo ships.”
In 2006, a UN Environment Programme report estimated that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic. They also reported that 137 species of seabirds, marine mammals, crustaceans, and fish have been found entangled in marine debris, and 177 species have ingested it. Most of this marine debris is plastic.
There are places in the ocean where garbage pools. The largest is called The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. There are also garbage patches in the Indian and Atlantic ocean. Here is a report about the biggest patch, published in The Independent on September 7, 2014.
Charles Moore, an American oceanographer who discovered the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” or “trash vortex”, believes that about 100 million tons of flotsam are circulating in the region. Marcus Eriksen, a research director of the US-based Algalita Marine Research Foundation, which Mr Moore founded, said yesterday: “The original idea that people had was that it was an island of plastic garbage that you could almost walk on. It is not quite like that. It is almost like a plastic soup. It is endless for an area that is maybe twice the size as continental United States.”
Plastic garbage can have devasting effect on animals, birds, marine life, and other creatures. This short movie trailer and the picture after it say more than my words ever could. The video was taken at Midway Island, which is more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent.
The Independent report I mentioned earlier also gave this information:
Dr Eriksen said the slowly rotating mass of rubbish-laden water poses a risk to human health, too. Hundreds of millions of tiny plastic pellets, or nurdles – the raw materials for the plastic industry – are lost or spilled every year, working their way into the sea. These pollutants act as chemical sponges attracting man-made chemicals such as hydrocarbons and the pesticide DDT. They then enter the food chain. “What goes into the ocean goes into these animals and onto your dinner plate. It’s that simple,” said Dr Eriksen.
While this problem is massive, there is hope. One of the most inspiring projects I have heard of was started by an 18 year old named Boyan Slat. His Ocean Cleanup Array concept “is likely a feasible and viable method to remove almost half the plastic from the North Pacific Garbage patch in 10 years, while being an estimated 7900x faster and 33x cheaper than conventional methods.”
Plastic waste is more than an ocean problem of course. When I dig in the earth in the area behind my house, every scoop has some plastic in it. Some objects are fully formed, some are just fragments, but they are still there. Think of how much plastic you see littered in your neighborhoods, in your city streets, on your beaches and in your parks. Imagine how much plastic you and others put into the landfill. It is estimated that a trillion plastic bags are used in the world each year. Most of them end up in landfills or as litter. How much of this plastic waste ends up in the stomachs of birds, animals, fish, and other creatures? How does this waste effect the health of every life form?
We can all make a difference. We can all have a hand in turning these problems around. We are all needed.
- Reduce your use of plastic
- Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose, Upcycle
- Don’t litter.
- Pick up other people’s litter.
- Stay informed
- Share this information with others
Written for Dungeon Prompts- Season 3, Week 6: Driven