By: Hanna Hiel
The World Economic Forum has stated that by 2050, the ocean will contain more plastic mass than fish mass. If that’s not enough to convince you that plastic has a negative impact on the ocean, there is abundant evidence that plastic waste is not only harming the animals of the ocean, but the environment, and ultimately humans as well.
According to the WEF’s report, most plastic packaging is only used once, and the use of plastic has increased by 20 times in the past 50 years, and if we don’t make serious changes it will double again in the next 20 years.
Research has found that plastic is not simply polluting our ocean, but merging with the ocean to the extent that in 1972, scientists found plastic particles in algae. Studies have shown that plastic is accumulating up to “100,000 pieces per square kilometer in some areas of the ocean”. And, according to BBC news, more than 8 million tons of plastic are added to the ocean every year.
Not only are we harming the surface of the ocean, but the depths as well. Plankton waste has been found to contain microscopic plastic particles. This waste is usually charged with floating down and providing the depths with nutrients and carbon. Now, as it is, these plankton pellets are also transporting particles of plastic to be ingested by the animals of the deep sea.
Fish are found with plastic in their stomach – fish that are ingested by humans. Even more unfortunately, sea creatures are being starved of nutrients due to plastic pollution. In January of 2016, 29 sperm whales were stranded ashore. Among those whales, it was found that “a 13-metre-long fishing net, a 70cm piece of plastic from a car and other pieces of plastic litter had been inadvertently ingested by the animals.”
These animals eat plastic thinking that they are food, and consequently die from lack of nutrition. Whales and other animals are being found, deceased, with their stomachs full of anything from plastic bags to beer cans. Is this the legacy that we want to leave our future generations with?
Though many researchers believe that humans have done irreparable harm to the oceans, there are many proposed solutions to prevent further damage. Many states are implementing legislation to prevent waste from entering the oceans. How can you do your part in cleaning up the oceans? Check out the International Coastal Cleanup project and sign up for a cleanup near you!