Plastic is dumped into the ocean from every continent of the world. This plastic is not evenly disposed of. Certain countries dispose much more waste into the oceans than others. The majority of the plastic in the oceans within in recent year has come from multiple countries in Asia. The largest contributor to plastic disposal in the oceans is China by far. They mismanage nearly 8.80 million metric tons of plastic waste in a single year alone (2010). This statistic is only including plastic waste while much more other forms of waste are also dumped.
A total of 3.2 million metric tons of mismanaged plastic waste came from Indonesia and it is estimated that 1.29 million metric tons became plastic marine debris. The United States is also guilty of polluting oceans with plastic, but at a much lower level than China. Annually, 0.11 million metric tons of waterborne plastic garbage comes from the United States.
Plastic has become such a necessity in every life that it is produced, used, and tossed, in every single human populated country on the earth. Many other countries beside China dump a massive amount of plastic into the oceans each year (but on a much smaller scale than China).
The Pacific Garbage Patch is a large patch of trash in the pacific ocean that is in between Hawaii and California. Although “large” might be an understatement to the size of the garbage patch. It weighs more than 43,000 cars. It weighs about 83,000 tons and it has 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic in it. Micro plastic accounts for 94% percent of the plastics there, but only account for 8% of the overall mass of the patch. The Pacific Garbage Patch takes up 600,000 square miles. Around 99.9% of the patch is plastic trash. This really puts into perspective how much of a problem plastic is considering how much of it makes up an enormous chunk of garbage.
Scientists even have trouble estimating the size of the Pacific Garbage Patch. They failed to capture things like bottles. It was hard to count by eye for smaller portions of it. They had to extrapolate to get their final estimate that still varied greatly to the actual amount. Photographers used plastic currents and math models to scale the Pacific Garbage Patch.
With scientists and photographers scaling the size of the patch, conservationists can use these measurements to come up with solutions to the large concentration of mostly plastic based trash floating in the Pacific.
Like other marine animals, whales still confuse trash as food. Surgery has been conducted on whales that have been found dead on the shore. The autopsies indicate an increase in plastic trash in the whale’s stomach. Studies prove that hundreds of cetacean species have been harmed by plastic debris. The plastic punctures and damages the whale’s stomach lineage. According to the Marine Pollution Bulletin, cetaceans are consuming plastic at a rate of 31% and 22% die because of the plastic.
Ways to help
There are many things we can do to stop this. For starters, we can start recycling our trash, especially any plastic we have. We don’t even have to bring plastic top the beach. There are alternatives to plastic, such as metal, paper, or tote bags.
Plastic waste kills up to a million seabirds a year. As with sea turtles, when seabirds ingest plastic, it takes up room in their stomachs, sometimes causing starvation. Many seabirds are found dead with their stomachs full of this waste. Scientists estimate that 60 percent of all seabird species have eaten pieces of plastic, a figure they predict will rise to 99 percent by 2050.
Plastic in the ocean is becoming a massive threat to the thousands of species of animals in our oceans as well as other creatures such as birds and even humans. It hard to think that more birds have plastic in them than not.
We have already discussed the problems that are caused by having large amounts of plastic in the ocean, with many sea animals dying in attempts of digesting plastic. What makes this problem even worse is that the amount plastic humans that have dumped into the ocean is going to increase. The amount of plastic in the ocean is already 8 million metric tonnes or 5.25 trillion pieces. Each minute, an entire garbage truck of plastic is being dumped into the ocean. To make matters worse the quantity of plastic is going to increase tenfold by the year 2050. Further More, in 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish in terms of weight. There are 5 large patches of plastic in the oceans. One of them is between California and Hawaii and it is size of Texas.
Plastic has become a vital part of human life. It is very commonly used by nearly every human on the planet and we can feel the effects in all corners of the planet. As many people know, plastic does not decompose very easily. It takes roughly 500 years for a piece of plastic to decompose. In these 500 years, much of this plastic finds itself in the ocean. When these plastics make their way into the ocean, it puts marine wildlife in lots of danger. These plastics are consumed much of the time and can cause health problems to all animals. It is believed that 700 species could go extinct because of plastic in the ocean.
This blog post from Brandon Suzuki is good at explaining how plastic takes a very long time to decompose. It also goes into what makes the long time for decomposition a huge problem towards marine life. The original post also mentions that 700 species of animals can go extinct because of this.