Outspoken Narrative

Marine Water Pollution

By Avani Inamder 

What's plastic pollution?

Every year, humans are responsible for 25 million tons of plastic in the ocean. Surprisingly, as of 2022, every square mile of our ocean contains over 45,000 individual pieces of plastic! Plastic is very harmful to the ocean environment and animals, killing over 100 million marine animals every year. Consumption of plastic is one of the main causes of death in our ocean: 9 out of 10 seabirds and 6 out of 10 whales have plastic in their stomachs. Scientists estimate that by 2050, there will be 937 million tons of plastic in the ocean; that is a higher amount of plastic than fish! If the world does not take significant action to prevent waste from reaching the oceans, many sea creatures that are alive today may not exist years down the line.

Recyling Failure

Unfortunately, the current efforts for recycling are not as strong as they need to be. Only 9% of all plastic produced has been recycled. 79% has ended up in landfills or the ocean. The other 12% of plastic has been burned, damaging the air quality of the environment.

How can we help?

Luckily, there are several ways humans can reduce the amount of plastic in the ocean. First of all, using reusable items, such as water bottles, bags, food containers, and silverware, would result in less demand for plastic and decrease the chances of it ending up in the ocean. If every American bought a reusable water bottle we could use 4.5 billion fewer plastic bottles every year. 

 

Unlike other types of waste, plastic cannot decompose. This causes it to stick around, which is destructive for the ocean environment; plastic breaks down into smaller pieces called microplastics. Microplastics are found in the depths of the ocean and are dangerously consumed by sea animals. As a result, it is crucial to reduce the amount of plastic used. People use plastic every day, from toothbrushes, to take-out containers, to shopping bags. Sadly, when most people throw away plastic, they do not consider the harmful effects they are making on the environment and its living things. The best action to take is to reduce, reuse and recycle plastic. Also, picking up plastic seen in nature would play a small, but helpful role in the environment.

Effect of Microplastics

According to The World Wildlife Fund Inc., plastic pollution is an additional stress factor that is pushing already threatened species, such as monk seals and sperm whales, closer toward extinction. The report also concluded that humans are at a risk from eating seafood polluted with microplastics.

Microplastics have been found in mussels and oysters. Surprisingly, four out of 20 brands of canned sardines and sprats tested contained plastic particles. Since humans eat all types of seafood by consuming them whole, it is almost impossible to avoid the plastics contained inside them.

Plastic debris is responsible for the ingestion, suffocation, and entanglement of hundreds of marine animals who think plastic waste is prey. Unfortunately, most animals who mistake plastic for food end up dying of starvation since their stomachs become filled with plastic. They also suffer from plastic wounds, infections, and the inability to swim. Floating plastics also carry invasive marine species, which threaten the food web.

The World Wildlife Fund Inc.

Key Facts

  • An average American uses 156 water bottles a year. Across the globe, we use 1.4 billion plastic bottles every day.
  • A single plastic bottle takes 450 million years to decompose.
  • 8 million tons of plastic bottle pollution end up in the ocean every year!
  • By 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish – unless we change our ways.
  • One reusable water bottle can save 150 single-use plastic bottles every year.

Thank you!

The ON Journal would like to thank you for reading this article! There will be more journal content coming soon. In the mean time, please check out the sources listed below to learn more about marine water pollution.