More Plastic, More Problems

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” – Herman Melville

Plastic

I’m not here to say anything you’ve never heard before or deliver groundbreaking new information about plastic pollution. But after watching the documentaries, A Plastic Ocean and Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, seeing what my friends have found in the bellies of fish they’ve caught, and doing my own research about plastic pollution across the U.S. and the world, I feel responsible to do everything in my power to advocate on behalf of our planet and inform whoever I can about this issue.

In this post I’m not going to list fact after fact, finding after finding. Just some of the really shocking facts I’ve come across and their sources, to help educate and provide a starting point for those interested in doing their own research on plastic pollution. Here goes:

According to plastic-pollution.org, in 2012 Global Industry Analysts stated that by 2015 the worldwide plastic consumption was expected to reach 297,500,000 tons with approximately 10% of that ending up in the world’s oceans. That’s 29,750,000 tons (59,500,000 pounds) of plastic disrupting oceanic ecosystems and potentially harming  the thousands of species who live in our oceans. Moreover, a scientific working group at UC Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis quantified how much plastic waste makes its way into the oceans from the land. And it’s A LOT. Every year 8 million metric tons (1 metric ton = 2,205 pounds) of plastic end up in our oceans.

The Great North Pacific Garbage Patch
The Great North Pacific Garbage Patch

That’s 17,640,000,000 pounds of plastic in our oceans every year. Enough to fill five grocery bags with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world. Some of the 8 million metric tons of plastic also end up at sea in what are known as garbage patches (large masses of floating debris across the seas). The most infamous garbage patch is the Great North Pacific Garbage Patch aka the Pacific Trash Vortex, which according to the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA) is estimated to cover 15,000 square kilometers; approximately 8.1% of the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

NOAA - Great Pacific Garbage Patch Zones
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine Debris Program created a map of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch zones

I don’t know about you, but not only does that break my heart, it makes me sick. So, so much plastic pollution could be avoided if we did better and/or had better recycling programs in place. Apparently, the bill to clean up the Great North Pacific Garbage Patch is so great that any country that tries to take care of it alone would bankrupt itself. And we know that will never happen. So it is up to us as global citizens and Earth-dwelling human beings to do our part in reducing our plastic footprint today, tomorrow, and for the rest of our existence. Not just for our sake or the sake of the beautiful animals who are suffering each and every day because of the waste created by humans, but for the sake of our children and our children’s children, and their children, and so on. They deserve to experience life on Earth in all its glory – not industrialized to the point we no longer have National Parks or clear skies or fresh air to breathe and definitely not covered in trash.

This has been quite the information dump but I hope I’ve helped lay down the groundwork to get you fired up about the atrocity that is plastic pollution. And more than anything, I hope this post encourages you to do more of your own research and take action! Contact your local government officials to discuss improving your city’s recycling programs, take the Pledge Against Plastic Straws, and stay tuned for my next post on what you can do to reduce your plastic footprint!

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Johanna is an adventure seeking, tree hugging, animal loving, nerd working in the space industry in Houston, Texas. And even though she works a 9 to 5 office job, she doesn't let that stop her from spending every moment she can outdoors exploring new parks, forests, and beaches. Check out The Five to Nine Nomad to follow along with her adventures.

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