In the modern world, people are becoming more and more conscious of the environment, with climate change, loss of biodiversity, and damaged ecosystems all considered primary problem points. Ocean pollution as a result of plastic in the ocean is another massive problem, coming as a result of overcrowded landfills and unregulated fishing practices.
We use plastic items every single day, but how does plastic harm the environment of the ocean? We’ve put together this blog to explain some facts on plastic pollution in the sea, along with offering some things we can all do to help contribute to solving the problem.
Ocean Pollution: Facts about Plastic in the Ocean
There are masses of debris and litter in the ocean, with up to 12.7 million metric tons of plastic ending up in our seas on a yearly basis. For context, that’s the same as a full garbage truck of waste being dumped in the ocean every minute. The plastic in the ocean can be classified as either macro or microplastics, meaning either larger pieces or pieces smaller than 5 millimeters in size.
Around 80% of the plastic in the ocean is believed to come from the mainland, while 20% is considered to come from fishing boats and sea vessels, but these figures vary depending on location. In fact, there is so much plastic in the ocean that masses of it have converged into a sort of island, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, half of which is believed to be formed by commercial fishing nets.
While a lot of non-plastic waste does end up in the ocean, plastic is the primary concern due to the fact that it doesn’t biodegrade and instead breaks down into smaller pieces. Sunlight that makes its way into the ocean will break down plastics without fully degrading them, which is known as photodegradation.
Ocean Pollution: How Does Pollution Affect the Ocean?
One of the major problems caused by plastic pollution is the contamination of water and deep-sea sediment. Despite a massive increase in plastic production in the last few years, waste levels of plastic in coastal sediments and surface waters have remained relatively steady, but recently, scientists discovered that microplastics had made their way into deeper levels of sediment.
This plastic is making its way into sea life, in the form of fish, crustaceans, mammals, and even plants such as coral. Plastic can absorb a lot of pollutants, and by making its way into the ecosystem, it could cause issues that are yet to be seen. It’s estimated that 4 billion fibers worth of microplastics could be contaminating every single square kilometer of deep-sea sediment across the entire planet.
Ocean Pollution: How Does Pollution Affect Marine Life?
Along with the contamination of the sea’s water and sediment, the biggest issue with plastic pollution is the effect that it’s having on marine life and animals. Based on studies by the UN, 800 species of animals are impacted by plastic debris in the ocean at the very least, which can have a variety of major knock-on effects.
Not only can sea creatures find themselves tangled up in pieces of plastic debris, such as nets, bags, and plastic can rings, but many also die as a result of ingesting plastics. Animals such as sea turtles and seabirds will ingest plastics, which then fill their stomachs without degrading, causing them to die of starvation, while many other creatures will suffocate on plastics. It’s been discovered that over half of both seabirds and turtles will ingest plastics in their lifetime, which is a figure that’s only rising.
Studies have shown that 300,000 whales, dolphins, and porpoises get caught and die in abandoned nets and lines on a yearly basis. Along with all of the animals that are affected directly by this pollution, the levels of microplastics in the ocean are also having an effect on us, finding their way into the fish we eat for food, and then ending up inside of us, which could be linked to cancer and other illnesses.
Ways to Stop Ocean Pollution
When it comes to plastic pollution solutions, the primary focus should be on the fishing and waste disposal industries improving their methods. However, without strict legislation in place, this seems like it could take some time, which is why we all have to do our part to fight the good fight.
Some ways to do this include:
- Boycotting Single-Use Plastic: This includes items such as plastic shopping bags, water bottles, and unnecessary packaging.
- Choosing Reusable Items: Use a metal water bottle and a fabric bag, and keep your own coffee cup for your morning joe.
- Support Organizations: There are countless organizations doing everything they can to stem the impact of plastic pollution, so get active, donate, and support them!
- Recycling: Not only should this come in the form of your own recycling practices, but also through buying recycled or remanufactured goods.
- Buy High Quality: By buying items that are high quality and built to last, you can reduce the number of goods that end up finding their way to the ocean.
- Avoid Microbeads: Products containing Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), Nylon (PA), Polyurethane, and Acrylates Copolymer all contain microbeads, meaning they contribute more to microplastic pollution.
We all need to do our part in the fight against ocean pollution, which is why we sell remanufactured, recyclable printer ink and toner cartridges at Green Imaging Solutions, reducing the potential for empty casings to end up in the sea.
For more info on our products, green solutions, and industry as a whole, visit our website today.