We must do better for our environment and planet if we are to exist.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Half of all plastics have been made in the last 15 years, growing from 2.3 million tons in 1950 to 448 million tons by 2015, and it continues to grow.
In 1977, Charles J. Moore, a boat captain and oceanographer, was returning from a boat race when he encountered a massive patch of floating plastic. Moore stated it took him seven days just to cross the patch. It is no wonder that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has received the nickname the "Eighth Continent."
Moore was so distressed seeing the marine floating garbage that he started his own company, Algalita, in Long Beach, California. And in 2020, he founded the Moore Institute for Plastic Pollution Research. He is convinced we must change how we think and act before it's too late.
He further estimates that by 2050, 99% of birds will have plastic in their guts, along with turtles and fish. These microplastics are in the fish's guts, making them unsuitable for human consumption.
Ocean Garbage Patches
Although the Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest and most in the news, there are others:
- North Atlantic Gyre
- South Atlantic Gyre
- South Pacific Gyre
- Indian Ocean Gyre
A gyre is a system of circulating ocean currents, almost like a 'slingshot' whirlpool creating a mass. Plastics are not biodegradable but break down into smaller pieces. Each year eight million tons of plastic enter our oceans.
Cleanup of Ocean Garbage Patches
It seems almost impossible to clean up the ocean, but organizations are dedicated to the problem. Both scientists and explorers agree that eliminating or disposing of plastic would be the best solution. They suggest "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle."
However, humans seem reluctant to let go of plastic. Instead of no plastic, here are some ways each of us can help:
- Stop buying plastic water bottles; use reusable bottles with a built-in filter
- Cook more, eliminate carryout containers and utensils
- Take cloth bags to store, eliminate plastic bags offered
- Purchase items second hand eliminating packaging
- Support a bag tax
- Volunteer for community cleanups
- Volunteer for the annual Earth Day cleanup
- Donate to non-profit organizations to eradicate plastic
Cleanup will not be easy, and the cost will also be a factor. But we can't ignore the problem. Perhaps sometime in the future, science may find a solution to eradicate plastics.
We cannot simply burn the garbage patches because it releases toxins such as dioxins, acids, sulfur dioxide, mercury, biphenyls, and heavy metals.
In 2018, a study found that synthetic fishing nets made up nearly half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Non-Profit Organizations Helping to Clean Our Oceans
Listed below are a few of the organizations dedicated to cleaning our oceans:
- Surfrider: created in 1994 and has a 4-star rating
- Five-Gyre Institution: founded in 2009 and has a Gold Seal Approval
- The Story of Stuff: has a Silver Seal of Approval
- Plastics Ocean: founded in 2016 with 93% funding allocated to activist programs
- Greenpeace Organization: A leader in environmental issues
Recently, the United Nations Environment Assembly is working with 175 countries to fight the problems of global plastics, creating the Global Plastics Pollution Treaty.