The human addiction to plastic has created a global health crisis for the world’s oceans and the creatures that call it home. The numbers are staggering—300 million TONS of plastic are consumed every year, and once plastic is made, it’s pretty much here to stay. With recycling rates hovering below 15%, most consumer plastics end up as garbage—and when not properly disposed of, plastic travels into the world’s oceans where it wreaks havoc on marine ecosystems. Here are three major consequences of plastic pollution in our seas and oceans:
1. Ever heard of the Pacific trash vortex? Also known as the Great Pacific garbage patch, you may have heard of this ‘floating island of plastic waste’, but it's not simply a physical mass of plastic. While visible waste does accumulate on the surface, scientists estimate that up to 70% of the waste has sunk to the ocean floor, so it’s not easy to just go in and scoop it up. And the Great Pacific garbage patch isn’t the only one—the North Atlantic and Indian Oceans suffer from the same. Learn more.
2. Micro-plastics harm wildlife at every level of the food chain. Micro-plastics, called nurdles, are the raw materials that plastic products like bags and bottles are made from. Nurdle spills, like oil spills, release millions of these tiny pellets that absorb toxic substances from ocean water. These pellets are ingested by marine animals—filling animal bellies with synthetic chemicals that deplete their energy and reduce their rates of survival. When we eat seafood, we may literally be eating contaminated food. If this weren’t bad enough, decades worth of discarded plastics disintegrate into tiny pellets as they are exposed to ultraviolet light and jostled around by waves. Learn more.
3. Animals are starving to death. Marine birds, turtles and fish are at risk for starvation when ingested plastic blocks normal digestive function. Scientists estimate that 98% of the global albatross population has plastic in their stomach due to the way they skim the water as they hunt for fish. Turtles have adapted to consume whatever food is in front of them, and as the world’s oceans fill up with plastic, they are succumbing to plastic pollution. Learn more.
Clearly, plastics are a problem. Learn more about simple steps you can take to reduce your plastic addiction.
We created this little video + our Ocean Conservation interactive learning capsule so you can learn] how you can help conserve and protect the oceans and the creatures that inhabit them.
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