How Much Plastic is in Our Oceans?

Before we get started, take a minute and look around. Do you see any plastic material? It can be your toothbrush, plastic food wrapper or drinking straws. There’s always something made of plastic around us.

Why Plastic is Such a Menace?

Plastic is an inorganic compound that doesn’t decompose readily. And that is why, even if we dispose of plastic materials, they still stay somewhere on the planet for quite some time. In the end, plastics may get blown by the wind to the ocean and other water bodies. This may have adverse side effects to the environment in the long term.

Over the past few years, humans have produced more plastic than ever created since the beginning. Considering the fact that plastics are quite easy to manufacture and use; most materials are made of it. That means the entire world produces large amounts of inorganic plastics every day.

Most of the regular citizens across different countries imagine that plastic materials don’t have the same dangerous effect on the ocean as oil spills. I must say that this idea is entirely misguided. Imagine the amounts of plastics disposed of by the entire world. I mean there is literally no country that hasn’t produced plastic materials in the past couple of years. If you are a regular sailor in the ocean, you’ll agree with me that often there are tiny particles of plastic all over the sea.

Most governments are trying to control the disposal of plastics by reusing the waste or even banning the use of plastic. Although this strategy is proving to be quite effective, there is still a portion of the population that hasn’t gotten the light of this issue yet.

On average, the US alone produces about 550 million plastic materials per day. This means that on a yearly basis there is a lot of plastic materials in circulation. If only 1 out of 5 plastics materials are recycled, it means that the rest of the plastic materials are dumped somewhere on this earth and inevitably land in the oceans through the effect of winds.

Impact of Plastic on the Ocean Community

Today, plastic is one of the basic necessities of our society. Most people don’t even realize how dependent they are on plastic materials. Therefore, if this plastic addiction doesn’t reduce, by 2030 the entire ocean will be almost over-run with the plastic weight. Therefore, by 2050, the amount of plastic in the sea will be more than the weight of the fish in the ocean.

Today, birds and other fishes die on a regular basis due to ingestion of plastic. That is because most fish and birds are unable to distinguish between food and plastic. Hence they continue dying if the plastic situation isn’t sorted out. And if the situation is not controlled these species will be extinct shortly.

When disposed of, plastic disintegrates into tiny soluble particles. The small particles usually dissolve into food materials hence putting the fish as well as other marine animals at risk.

The biggest problem with the consumption of plastics is that fishes and birds aren’t able to digest them. The result is the fishes and birds die in large numbers. And if let’s say the fish survives for at least a couple of days, then lady luck strikes on a good fisher, he or she lands a good meal to take home.

Humans are also not able to digest plastics too. Therefore if the fisher and his family consume the fish with plastic in it, he is putting his life at risk and that of his family also. This is because research shows that compounds used to make plastic materials cause cancer among other health complications.

The plastic amount in the ocean is also more than the number of plankton which is the primary food in the food chain. So basically, even though plastic has been around for less than 50 years, it has managed to integrate into the entire ecosystem in the ocean.

How Plastic Spreads

I guess you are wondering how does plastic spread around the entire sea? Taking, for instance, the situation in our localities, you’ll hardly walk for 5 meters without missing a piece of plastic. And as we all know, plastic is lighter than water.

Therefore, when plastic reaches the sea, it floats on water. The ocean itself is never still. So the plastic material will spread out in the entire ocean in a matter of days.  More to that, the ocean breeze is likely to merge hence forming a spiral phenomenon known as a gyre.

Most of the gyres are now full of plastics which is one of the most significant problems in the ocean. And what we used to know as gyres are now the Ocean Garbage points. On average the gyres alone have about 3million tonnes of plastics.

That is a clear indicator of how catastrophic the widespread of plastics in the oceans is. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. You can’t even begin to imagine the number of tiny particles of plastic in the Ocean. If you put the plastic in the ocean together, they can amount almost to the size of the USA in only one year.

Side Effects of Plastic in the Ocean

As discussed earlier, plastic causes the death of fishes and birds that consume them. Also, the tiny particles can absorb harmful sun rays hence causing toxicity to any animal consuming them.

This effect ultimately causes another ripple effect. The number of plastics in the ocean reduces the income generated from tourism since what we use to now as beautiful sun-kissed beaches are now wastelands. Plastic can’t discompose, at least not easily. Therefore countries invest billions in cleaning up the beaches. Hence, a lot of money is invested on the clean-up project alone.

As if that’s not enough, most people end up spending so much money on hospital bills due to the effects of consuming tiny particles of plastics. As you can see, the impact of plastic is entirely horrifying.

Thanks to the different campaigns on plastic wastes we can now see some light at the end of the tunnel. However, even with all the efforts, it might take quite a while for us to get oceans without plastics. Therefore, please be patient as well as sail along with this process!