Updated: Sep 17
This post is to help you really understand what we are doing to our home.
"It's just 1 bottle" ~said 6 billion people
First let's learn some vocabulary.
Plastic - A synthetic material made from a wide range of organic polymers such as polyethylene, PVC, nylon, etc., that can be moulded into shape while soft, and then set into a rigid or slightly elastic form.
Microplastics are small pieces less than 5mm long (about the size of a sesame seed). Types of microplastics are usually degraded from larger plastics or are microbeads.
Microbeads are tiny pieces of manufactured polyethylene plastics that are add to exfoliants in health and beauty products. You know those rough particles that make your skin feel really soft because they scrape the dead skin off or the little dots in toothpaste? Thats them. I bet you didn't know they were actually plastic. Make sure you don't swallow that toothpaste...
These microplastics easily pass through water filtration systems because of their small size.
A Gyre is a large, rotating collection of currents. There are 5 major gyres.
Cure -The relief of symptoms of a disease or condition.
Why do we make plastic?
Plastic is continuously made because of it's durability, low cost, and malleability.
Since 1964 plastic production has increased 20 times, equalling 311 million tons of plastic in 2014. This is the same weight as more than 900 empire state buildings. This number is expected to double again by 2050.
Plastic packaging is 26% of all plastic manufactured. Only 14% is collected for recycling, and after sorting only 5% is actually retained to use again. It is useful for less than 1 year but stays in the environment for centuries.
Even though plastic was revolutionary, it turned out to be a bad experiment.
A study from the Ellen MacAurthur Foundation found that each year at least 8 million tons of plastic leaks into the ocean. That's the same as about 1 garbage truck dumped every minute.
We have found plastic in 83% of tap water samples. Other studies have found plastic in rock salt. Plastic has been found in organisms 11km down. There is no marine ecosystem left that has not been affected.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The patch spans from the west coast of North America to Japan. It is actually 2 patches (East & West) that are bound by the North Pacific Gyre. The debris travels between the East and West patches by the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone. This is where warm water from the South Pacific meets with cold water from the Arctic and acts as a trash highway.
Because of the rotation, debris is drawn into the center of the gyre where it becomes trapped. This becomes the "Trash Islands" as referred to in the media. However, you cannot see these masses on a satellite because they are primarily composed of microplastics. Instead, the water looks cloudy. Also, about 70% of the debris sinks to the bottom of the ocean, making the vortex nearly impossible to measure.
Where is all of this waste coming from?
80% is from land based activities in North America and Asia.
It takes about 6 years for debris to reach the patch from NA and about 1 year from Asia.
20% is from boaters, offshore oil rigs, and cargo ships (the majority being fishing nets)
Examples of animals being affected
Seals get entangled in fish nets. This is called ghost fishing - what fishing gear does when it is lost, dumped, or abandoned; usually killing animals without our direct intention.
Sea Turtles eat plastic bags thinking that they are jellyfish.
Albatrosses collect resin pellets thinking they are fish eggs to feed to their babies. This leads to starvation and ruptured organs...
Plankton. Maybe one of the most important animals being affected. Debris is blocking sunlight (their food) from these organisms. Plankton is the base of the food chain. If they get affected it becomes a 'chain' reaction and ruins the rest of it.
How can we fix it?
Since it is so far from any coastline, no nation will take the responsibility or provide the funding to clean it up.
There are numerous research projects and ideas out there; however, the most common conclusion is that the patch is nearly impossible to clean up...
Enough with the negative. How CAN we fix this problem?
We need to stop letting debris leak into our environment. If we work hard at disposing our waste properly, then it will be easier for our big waste corporations to take care of it after.
Bakeys is a new company from India. They created edible cutlery. They even come in flavors like celery, black pepper, and cumin. And if you don't want to eat it, it'll biodegrade in 5 days. They think that soon it will be the same cost of plastic cutlery!
4Ocean is creating bracelets made of recycled glass and plastic pulled from the ocean! 1 bracelet = 1 pound of trash pulled
We can stop supporting companies that use plastic or the plastic production companies directly. It's supply and demand. If we stop buying (demanding) plastic straws, they will stop selling (supplying) plastic straws, and so on.
You can check out my other blogs like 5 ways to live environmentally friendly to see few easy ways to make a big difference.
These were just a few of many companies working to make a difference.
(I am not affiliated with any company listed above, I am just a strong supporter <3)
"We need to protect our ocean like our life depends on it...because it does." Sylvia Earle
Don't contribute to such destruction. We know what we are doing is wrong. So, why do we keep doing it? Because it's easy?
It's not just a plastic problem, it's a garbage problem.
When we think of who is to blame, we think it's industry. Well yes, but before that it's us. In the stores. In restaurants. We are the ones supporting the production companies and saying that this is OK, when we really know that it's not.
"IF THE OCEANS DIE, WE DIE." Captain Paul Watson
There is no easy way to make our waste disappear, but there are ways you can be part of the solution.
Life started in the ocean, and life will end in the ocean. Let's not speed up that process....
I apologize for this post being a bit negative. It is hard to hear about all of the things that are hurt, and especially hard to hear that WE are the ones doing the harm...
But, when we work together we can become the cure to our own disease! Alexia Gonzalez
I believe that we can make a wave of change!
Take your first step by taking the pledge to Say NO to Plastic Straws
If you'd like to become part of a community of people that want to gain tips on living environmentally friendly and becoming the best YOU, click here to join my exclusive Facebook group L.O.L.Y. - Love the Ocean. Love Yourself.
See you beneath the surface,
Gypsy del Oceano <3
NOAA - National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration
Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Some of my own prior knowledge from college courses/internships/experiences