Since plastic was first introduced to humans as a synthetic resource, it has been developed to the point where almost anything can be made out of plastics. The material was strong, long-lasting, cheap, and sterile. Because of its versatility and cheapness, plastic began to be used to create disposable products that required mass production. We humans did not control the flow of the plastic waste well and it has thus spilled over into the oceans. It was nigh indestructible, and because of their small size, marine animals commonly get tangled within it or consume the plastics. This situation is what has lead to the current issues affecting marine biodiversity in the oceans.
What is Ocean Plastic Pollution?
When referring to ocean plastic pollution, oftentimes people mean the proliferation of plastics within the ocean that directly affect marine ecosystems. This sort of pollution has become a significant issue that will severely hamper the marine ecosystems’ ability to maintain equilibrium. In a few years, this will result in the extinction of multiple species unable to adapt to the thoroughly polluted oceans.
However, there are people who do not believe in ocean plastic pollution’s extreme effects. In order to prove these predicted effects, graphical data will be exhibited alongside an explanation describing the relationship between the data, pollution, and marine life.
Ocean Plastic Pollution Data
Looking at Graph 1 and 2 on the infographic, it can be observed that global plastic production has been increasing over the course of multiple decades while the percentage of global plastic waste discarded is decreasing. By crunching the numbers, the data will show that despite the decrease in the percentage of discarded waste, the amount of waste is still increasing. In 2010, 250 million tons of plastics were produced and 60% was discarded, equating 150 million tons of discarded trash. In 2015, 325 million tons of plastic were produced and 55% was discarded, therefore 179 million tons of trash was discarded. This does not bode well for the ocean, as discarded plastic is often dumped into the ocean.
Interestingly, by looking at Graph 3, the numbers show that many species have already had documented records of plastic ingestion. The small plastics are often mistaken by marine life as food, which results in the continuous consumption of plastics. Because plastic cannot be digested by their stomachs, the aquatic creatures that swallow them end up with plastic stuck in their guts forever. This results in smaller stomach sizes and the ability to absorb nutrients. Additionally, the extra weight of the plastics will weigh down fish and hamper seabirds’ ability to fly. These symptoms will ultimately result in premature death. The number of affected animals and species who experience this will only increase as time goes by.
This leads to the final graph, Graph 4, which projects the mass of plastic waste within the ocean until 2025. It shows three different predictions, a low estimate, a middle estimate, and a high estimate. Each of these forecasts, however, all predict that the mass of plastic in the ocean will be significantly larger than what it currently is. As seen in Graph 1 and 2, more trash is being discarded every year, and much of that trash ends up in the ocean. If trends continue, Graph 4’s predictions will likely come to fruition.
This issue has multiple causes that can be prevented by each person’s everyday actions. The most impactful issue, however, is the mass production, usage, and disposal of plastics. In order to minimize the impact of plastics, the solution below can help:
- Recycling plastics that would otherwise be thrown away
- Reduce your waste and plastic use
- Utilize reusable packaging, bags, cup, etcetera whenever you can
- Use biodegradable materials