The Oceans Plastic Problem

June 7, 2017

 

Can I be honest with you?   When our city and state recently banned single-use plastic bags, I was miffed.  What an inconvenience!  I can never remember to bring my bags into the grocery store, and I absolutely REFUSE to pay 10 cents for a bag.  So more often than not, I end up walking out with my boxes of mac-and-cheese (for the kids) and cans of corn stacked high because I forgot my bag again.

 

But friends, the plastic in our ocean is a really, really big problem.  I've read all the stats.  Check out this list from EcoWatch (or read the full article HERE):

 

  • In the Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments—like grocery bags, straws and soda bottles—are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day.

  • Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.

  • 50 percent of the plastic we use, we use just once and throw away.

  • Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times.

  • We currently recover only five percent of the plastics we produce.

  • The average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year.

  • Plastic accounts for around 10 percent of the total waste we generate.

  • The production of plastic uses around eight percent of the world's oil production (bioplastics are not a good solution as they require food source crops).

  • Americans throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year (source: Brita)

  • Plastic in the ocean breaks down into such small segments that pieces of plastic from a one liter bottlecould end up on every mile of beach throughout the world.

  • Annually approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. More than one million bags are used every minute.

  • 46 percent of plastics float (EPA 2006) and it can drift for years before eventually concentrating in the ocean gyres.

  • It takes 500-1,000 years for plastic to degrade.

  • Billions of pounds of plastic can be found in swirling convergences in the oceans making up about 40 percent of the world's ocean surfaces. 80 percent of pollution enters the ocean from the land.

  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located in the North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California and is the largest ocean garbage site in the world. This floating mass of plastic is twice the size of Texas, with plastic pieces outnumbering sea life six to one.

  • Plastic constitutes approximately 90 percent of all trash floating on the ocean's surface, with 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile.

  • One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.

  • 44 percent of all seabird species, 22 percent of cetaceans, all sea turtle species and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies.

  • In samples collected in Lake Erie, 85 percent of the plastic particles were smaller than two-tenths of an inch, and much of that was microscopic. Researchers found 1,500 and 1.7 million of these particles per square mile.

  • Virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form (with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated).

  • Plastic chemicals can be absorbed by the body—93 percent of Americans age six or older test positive for BPA (a plastic chemical).

  • Some of these compounds found in plastic have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects.

     

So here is my encouragement: don't cling to some conservative notion that the environmentalists are just out to take our fun and have some agenda.  Our plastic is destroying marine life and taking life-changing resources with it.  Consider how you use plastic today.

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I am a marine biologist and pastor who loves Jesus, my family, the Church and the oceans.  I started this blog to share views and insights discovered over my years of following Jesus and exploring the oceans.   Read More

 

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