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, 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 . Annually, the USA uses and disposes of over 175 billion plastic straws which wind up in landfills and our waterways and oceans.
Every year, approximately a billion fish, dolphins,, seabirds, 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,and there have been considerable strides made in so-called , 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 reusableor to the store and forego the plastic ones they offer (in fact, some states such as California, single-use plastic bags entirely).
Additionally, you can join celebrities like actor Adrian Grenier, model Brooklyn Decker and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in theand support initiatives like the or the efforts of the by using 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.