Hey, friends! As you may already know, I, Katherine, am the sole writer and content creator here at The Basic Goods. Whether it’s green living tips, products that help you to be more eco-friendly, or general thoughts on treading lightly, it all stems from my personal experience and what I have learned as a sustainability writer.
What you may not know is that scientific data is my go-to source for all things eco. I rely heavily on this to make sure the facts I provide here are correct. I try to be an educated consumer and expert on the topics as much as possible but there are some things that I just don’t know! So, you can imagine how excited I was to connect with a real-life environmentalist. David Evans is founder of prch, a resource of eco-minded consumers and has a degree in environmental studies from UCLA plus years of experience working to raise awareness about marine conservation.
On TBG, Evans helps us break down the complex topic of ocean plastic pollution, an environmental issue that I personally am passionate and hopeful about solving in my lifetime. I’ll be talking even more about ocean plastic pollution in the future, in the meantime enjoy this guest post from environmentalist, David Evans who is sharing some crucial ways to take Inspired Action today.
The Breakdown of Plastics in Our Oceans and Effects on Ocean Wildlife
The world’s seas and oceans are vast, making up the majority of our planet. But our increased production of plastics over the last century is infiltrating these natural waters with unnatural materials.
It is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish!
Some researchers and environmental enthusiasts now refer to the ocean as “plastic soup” after discovering that most oceans contain bits of plastic that may never be fully decomposed.
»PLASTICS IN OUR OCEANS
We know where plastics originate, but how does plastic break down in the water to form this “plastic soup” and make recovery so much more difficult?
Plastics start to break down once they are exposed to UV rays for long periods, though the exact breakdown timeline is still largely being researched and is not fully understood. Once the UV rays break apart the plastics into what are called “microplastics,” these small particles can remain in the ocean for much longer periods, and some researchers suggest these particles may never fully disintegrate.
Even more, it’s next to impossible to filter through the water to make it clean again, once the plastic particles become this tiny size; especially considering the amount of polluted water that now covers the earth.
As National Geographic reported in 2009, plastics may actually decompose faster than researchers originally thought. While that sounds promising, it is not necessarily a good thing for our seas, as decomposition of these harmful materials does not prevent against the chemicals entering the ocean and harming wildlife and the health of our waters overall.
»THE THREAT OF PLASTIC-FILLED OCEANS
Plastics are dangerous to ocean wildlife for a number of reasons.
Fish and turtles, birds, and various mammals are physically harmed by plastics when they are entangled. Bits of plastic that float in the water are often mistaken for food and ingested. Plastics can remain in the intestines of animals, displacing food and leading to starvation.
The chemicals in plastics may also impact animals when ingested, but the extent of this is lesser known.
»WHAT’S BEING DONE?
The dumping of plastics into oceans has been prohibited in the United States since 1988, when the Ocean Dumping Ban Act banned industrial wastes, such as plastics, and sewage sludge. This ban was part of the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA) of 1972, which is still regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Regardless of these regulations, trash and debris continue to infiltrate the ocean at alarming rates. Plastics can easily enter the oceans through sewage lines, wind, and changing tides.
While the research is grim regarding plastic waste in our oceans and the effects it can have on wildlife and living organisms in the ocean, there are still ways humans can prevent more plastics entering the oceans.
Recycling is key to limit the production of waste, and it’s important to continue clean-up efforts on beaches and other areas near the water. While not much can be done about the plastic waste that already exists in the ocean, future reduction of pollution can lead to long-term improvements and plastic waste reduction overall.
About The Author
David Evans is the founder of prch, a resource for eco-minded consumers. He is a minimalist, environmentalist, and conscious consumer with a background in environmental studies, conservation, and tech. Learn to improve your environmental and social impact @theprch.