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There are few things as majestic and awe-inspiring as the ocean. Unfortunately, one of our planet’s greatest beauties and largest sources of biodiversity is in trouble! The seas are polluted with nightmarish plastic debris which threatens marine life and, yes, even us.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the USA alone uses over 380 billion plastic bags a year, while the global figure is over a trillion. The EPA estimates that less than 5% of these bags are recycled. Another major source of plastic pollution that many people don’t consider are straws. Annually, the USA uses and disposes of over 175 billion plastic straws which wind up in landfills and our waterways and oceans.

Beach covered in plastic and trash.

Every year, approximately a billion fish, dolphins, whales, seabirds, turtles and other aquatic life die by suffocation, intestinal blockage or choking on plastic debris. In addition, over time sunlight photodegrades plastic into small, microscopic pieces which are then eaten by tiny marine organisms. Ultimately, these nearly invisible pieces of plastic end up in the food chain and on our dinner plates via the seafood that we eat. That’s right, we use so much plastic that we’re actually eating it!

In addition to the harm to marine life, plastic debris can clog our waterways and create stagnant pools that provide the perfect breeding ground for mosquitos and other disease-carrying pests.

 There have been some promising developments in the war against plastic. Scientists have recently found a type of worm, the waxworm, that will eat plastic and there have been considerable strides made in so-called “edible plastics”, where plastic bags are made from natural resins (or plant extracts) that break down quickly and are less likely to harm wildlife.

 However, we cannot wait for science to solve all of our problems. Plastic takes about 450 years to decompose which means that there’s no quick fix when it comes to this kind of pollution and we need to join the fight now to protect the planet for future generations.

The obvious first step is to recycle. If you must use plastic, make sure you recycle it but, ideally, you’ll go a step further and try to avoid using plastic altogether. An easy way to do this is to start taking your own reusable grocery bags or produce bags to the store and forego the plastic ones they offer (in fact, some states such as California, have banned single-use plastic bags entirely).

Join the war on plastic!

Additionally, you can join celebrities like actor Adrian Grenier, model Brooklyn Decker and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in the straw war fight and support initiatives like the Strawless Ocean Initiative or the efforts of the Lonely Whale Foundation by using reusable straws instead of the disposable ones and raising awareness on social media with the hashtag #stopsucking.

 We cannot undo the harm we have already done to our planet through our over-reliance on plastics and other petroleum-based products. What we can do is move forward into the future with greater awareness of how we impact our planet and do what we can to correct our mistakes.

 Until biodegradable plastics are universal, we must all do our part by recycling and saying no to single-use plastics.

1st Publish – 10/7/2016
2nd Publish – 7/7/2017

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