Plastic is a menace to all ecosystems it comes in contact with. Non-biodegradable, toxic, petroleum-based, and easily mistaken for an ocean animal’s prey, it’s ruining our seas and filling up our landfills. The approximated amount of plastic recycled, out of the total plastic produced is almost certainly less than 10%. And do you know what happens to the rest of it? It sits around in a dump for thousands of
years, or is taken to the ocean to become yet another drifting patch of garbage. Plastic is not a biodegradable substance. It will break down over many years, but it will never fully go away. The molecules will simply divide and become smaller and more spaced out, until they are spread to other parts of the ocean and the Earth to become more pollution. It takes so many years for even a slight breakdown to occur that there is no difference made, and the plastic continues to pile up. Worse yet, even if the plastic does start to ‘decompose’- though I shouldn’t be calling it that, because it will never fully break down- the particles are then microscopic and harder to locate, especially harder to remove. They go into the water that many sea animals live in and breathe.
Sending the plastic to be destroyed isn’t a much better choice. The incineration of trash releases toxins and chemicals into the air, which create pollution in the air. So no matter where the plastic goes, it’s always a problem. Did you know that breathing the air in Mumbai for just one day is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes? That’s how polluted it is. Plastic and other petroleum-based substances are not only ruining the Earth, but also the creatures living in it. Turtles in the ocean often think that plastic bags are jellyfish and consume the bags, which clogs the airways in their throat and eventually kills them.
Recent developments are being made to create plant based plastics, rather than petroleum based ones. While this will certainly help to stop creating trouble for the ocean, it won’t decrease what’s already there. Thankfully, inventions are being made, and it’s believed that they can help. Take Dutch teenager Boyan Slat’s robotic ocean cleaning invention: it gleans its energy from ocean currents, so it’s sustainable, and it directs plastic particles to collection platforms. The plastic particles will then be recycled in a way that people can profit from it.
Will this fix every plastic problem our oceans face? No. In fact, it’s estimated that only a third will be collected, but it’s a revolutionary solution that’s still going to change a lot for ocean wildlife. However, the robot cleaning devices are just an experiment, say the team of engineers working on them, though they also say that it looks promising. It’s not clear when these cleaning platforms will be put into use, or even if they will be put into use. So what can we do to help?
Ways to Help:
- Bring a reusable grocery bag to the store with you, and make sure the rest of your family does as well.
- Recycle as much of your plastic as you can- preferably all of it.
- Bring a reusable water bottle everywhere. Stop buying plastic ones! If you’re in desperate need of water, and plastic is the only option, recycle that bottle, or reuse it for another day.
- Talk to your local grocery store about stopping the usage of plastic bags altogether. Be sure to remind them that it will boost their profit because they can also sell reusable cloth bags.
- If you have a lot of plastic grocery bags already, use them to line small bathroom trashcans. You can also iron a couple of bags together to create a reusable grocery bag.
If we could outlaw the dumping of plastic into our oceans and landfills, companies might be able to sell it to other organizations, such as Terracycle, and they could turn it into recycled products. What do you think? Got any ideas to help?
- The Ocean Cleanup Project (lightmsgs.wordpress.com)
- Why Are So Many Sea Turtles Eating Plastic? (huffingtonpost.com)
- A Sea of Plastic (sunnysideravenue.wordpress.com)
- The Invention That Solves Plastic Pollution in the Pacific (classwarfareexists.com)
- Teen Invents A Plastic Harvester To Clean Up The Earth’s Seas (youviewed.com)
- Teen discovers a way to clean up the oceans in 5 years (blueandgreentomorrow.com)
- Put plastic in its place (switchboard.nrdc.org)
- City Meeting to be Held for Potential Ban on Plastic Bags (sandiego6.com)
- More plastic bags mean bad news for world’s turtles (greenfudge.org)
- Paper or Plastic: Making an Environmentally-Friendly Choice (everydayhealth.com)