How does plastic get into the ocean? Pathway of marine pollution
How Does Plastic Get into the Ocean
In recent years, there have been more and more reports of various marine animals like whales and turtles washing up onshore, meeting their untimely death due to either getting trapped in plastic wastes or ingesting them. Marine pollution caused by plastics has been the number one culprit that harms marine life and ecosystem.
As of 2020, scientists estimate that there are around 13 million metric tons of plastic waste in our oceans. This number continues to grow every year due to poor handling of plastic waste which eventually ends up in the oceans. People often wonder how plastic gets into the ocean when we have been disposing of them in trash bins. In this article, we will explore the leading reasons on how does plastic gets into the ocean.
What are the Top Causes of Marine Pollution?
Improper waste disposal
One of the common assumptions is that water pollution is only caused by directly dumping wastes in the ocean or other bodies of water. On the contrary, littering and improper waste disposal in lands will cause rainwater to carry garbage from the drains into the sea. Garbage like plastic bottles and food packaging left by beachgoers in the sand gets into the ocean the fastest as the waves easily carry them into the sea within minutes.
Use of Products with Microplastics
Toothpaste, face scrubs, shower gels, and wet wipes are only a few of the products sold in the market that contain microbeads or microplastics. While not easily visible to the naked eye and may seem safe, these microplastics easily go from the drain to the ocean. Once these enter the oceans, marine animals mistake them for food and consume them, which then leads to their death since these cannot be digested.
Factories and processing plants release their chemical wastes that contain plastics almost always directly onto the rivers and seas. Aside from this, leakages also happen during the manufacturing or transportation of products that contain plastics.
Single Use Plastics
Perhaps the majority of the plastic waste that can be seen in the oceans and landfills are single-use plastics like plastic bottles, plastic utensils, and plastic bags. These products are designed to be used once and then thrown out for the convenience of the consumer. However, the short-term convenience that it provides creates a long-term inconvenience to the oceans. Since plastics don’t decompose entirely, they will be in the oceans for an indefinite length of time.
Easy Ways to Lessen Plastics in the Ocean
Support Recycled Products
There have been numerous groups, foundations, organizations, and companies that have taken an active stance in lessening plastics in the ocean. A lot of these also promote and produce quality products that come from recyclable materials like bags made from plastic wrappers. One product from YSTUDIO is the Glamour Evolve - Ocean Sustainable Rollerball Pen which has a body that is made from recycled fishing nets. While using recycled pen packaging may seem a small step, it is actually a huge help in lessening carbon emissions and lessening plastic waste in the ocean.
Discourage Single-use Plastics
While it can be a bit of a challenge in households nowadays to skip using single-use plastics, it is something doable. Instead of easily disposable plastic containers, opt for items that can be used longer like eco bags or beeswax cloth wrappers. While it is unavoidable to use plastic containers, choose those that are more durable, long-lasting, and can be recycled once no longer functional.
Practice Proper Waste Disposal
Proper waste disposal does not mean just throwing all waste in the garbage can and neatly closing it. This starts with segregating biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes, followed by segregating which products are recyclable or not. Most of the time, when all wastes are thrown together in the garbage can, these are no longer segregated and are just thrown in the landfills. While you may think that the plastics in the landfills won’t reach the oceans, that’s wrong. Rains and floods would always find a way to carry plastics into the oceans, especially since every drainage would lead to it. As such, if it is possible to segregate trash inside our houses, this would already contribute a lot to minimizing plastics getting into the oceans.
Why is it Important to Lessen Plastics in the Oceans?
Plastic pollution is a global issue that needs the help and participation of everyone. Since the earth is covered in oceans and other bodies of water, its threatened health would affect not just marine life but also humans. Just imagine how the plastic we throw away will get back to our plates since marine animals have consumed them. This in turn will enter our systems and can cause sickness.
Another huge impact of plastic waste in oceans is the drastic climate change that we have been experiencing for the last decade. Global warming, the melting of ice caps, changes in sea levels, and unpredictable weather changes are just a few of the effects of climate change that we experience now. This will escalate more if we don’t take action today. As residents of this planet, small steps and small contributions are always welcome in improving the earth's health.