An Ocean of Plastic
Plastic debris found in the ocean mainly comes from the land, namely urban areas. This has widespread and long-lasting effects on the marine environment, which is why we all need to do more to reduce plastic waste.
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If you’ve been on YouTube recently, chances are you have heard of Team Seas. If you don’t know, Team Seas is a fundraiser project run by YouTubers MrBeast and Mark Rober to raise $300 million in order to clear up 300 million pounds of trash from the ocean, including rivers and beaches by the start of 2022. They are collaborating with organizations, such as Ocean Conservatory, to use high-tech robots and manpower to clean up the waterways. Organisations like The Ocean Cleanup have spent millions on developing technology to fish trash out of the ocean. But what can ordinary people do to help out?
The Plastic Problem
We might have heard of these worrying statistics: plastics take more than 400 years to decompose, every year around 8 million tons of plastic waste enters into the oceans from coastal nations, and an estimated 100 million sea animals die each year from plastic waste. But in our everyday lives, we may also have seen plastic trash washed up on Sentosa’s Palawan Beach, images of sea animals tangled up in litter, or even consumed microplastics from the fish which have ingested plastic and microfibers. What’s worse, heat from sunlight causes plastics and microplastics to release greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change.
How did it get this bad?
This is a photo of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It’s uncomfortable to stare at for too long, but this is just a small section. In real life, this collection of marine debris is made up of two distinct patches, containing mainly trash for the land like plastic bottles and straws. The Ocean Cleanup estimates that this patch is three times the size of France (1.6 million square kilometers). But there may be more plastic found below the surface, as experts estimate that as much as 70% of the trash eventually sinks to the bottom of the ocean.
Our ecosystem is being destroyed by plastic. Plastic waste is killing coral reefs, threatening the natural habitat of thousands of species. Not only does sea life like whales and jellyfish get affected by plastic, migratory birds are injured by angling, which is a form of fishing using wires, hooks and weights. It’s clear that if we continue to dispose plastics into the ocean, the damage may become irreversible.
What can we do about it?
Credit: Smithsonian Institution
The best way to control plastic pollution is to reduce our use of plastic together. So encourage your friends and family to adopt these habits below!
- Use fewer plastic bags in our everyday lives: It may be convenient to reach for a plastic bag during the checkout queue at the supermarket, but try to bring the bags you already have with you when shopping.
- Use less single-use plastic: Try bringing your own reusable containers to restaurants, bringing your own plastic water bottles to work or school, and avoiding straws or plastic packaging.
- Volunteer: Support groups which are working to prevent more trash from ending up in the garbage, including through clean-up activities at the beach if you live near an ocean.
- Don’t litter: 73% of beach litter is plastic, such as cigarette butts, bottles and caps, food wrappers and so on. Beach cleanup projects collect significantly less waste than what is actually entering the ocean.