The Plastic Plague Polluting Our Oceans
Oceans account for 70% of our Earth’s makeup and play a crucial role in maintaining the health of our planet: regulating our climate, feeding our communities, cleaning our air, and providing homes for 50-80% of all of the organisms on earth. Without healthy oceans and the ecosystems they contain, life as we know it on our planet would not exist. Unfortunately, with worldwide population on the rise, as well as increased global consumption, and vastly more waste being produced, industrial and pedestrian pollution is putting our oceans and human health at risk.
By quickly glancing at this photo, you’d probably expect this wide sandy beach to be relatively free of trash. Upon closer inspection, however, you may be quite shocked. After just one hour of combing this seemingly spotless beach, the ecoSPEARS team and volunteers gathered hundreds of cigarette butts and dozens of straws, bottle caps, lollipop sticks, and aluminum cans just to name the most common litter gathered. Other more obscure articles such as toothbrushes, combs, candy wrappers, and band-aids were also found. By the end of the day, ecoSPEARS had gathered over 35 pounds of trash, the majority of which was found tucked away in the beds of washed-up seaweed.
A recent study found that only 9% of the world’s plastic is recycled, leaving the remaining 91% to find their way into our landfills, waterways, and oceans. Over time, these plastics break down resulting in the small fragments we too often see washed up in the sand, or those even smaller, invisible, impossible-to-see-with-the-naked-eye fragments fittingly called microplastics. While these plastic fragments may appear harmless, when they are carried tens of thousands of miles across oceanic currents they act act as havens to hydrophobic and toxic chemicals such as PCBs which would rather latch onto a plastic membrane than exist in open water. From here, the contaminated plastic acts as a brightly-colored beacon to organisms which are attracted to the bright colors of these plastics. Most common are medium-to-large size fish, including migratory fish, and species of scavenging birds which ingest PCB-contaminated plastics or microplastics. This, in turn, pushes these plastics and toxins up the food chain on onto our own plates. Many studies have even been finding microplastics in a vast majority of crustaceans such as oysters and mussels.
While this plague of plastic is severe, there is still much that can be done. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is a popular phrase, however the majority of the emphasis seems to be places on the term “recycle”. While this step is important, it is vital that we begin to take steps towards more conscious consumption, primarily reflecting on those first two steps, especially “reduce.” As consumers, we dictate market trends and influence how big corporations market and produce their products. By voicing our wants through actions such as purchasing more environmentally friendly goods, spending a little more for long-lasting products, or simply fixing an article of clothing instead of replacing it, we make it known that we want to see shifts towards a world free of plastic pollution, towards a world with healthier and cleaner oceans and a healthier world overall, for everyone.
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Want to know how ecoSPEARS technology can help your PCB-impacted community? Schedule a webinar to learn more about how our solutions can help!
Interested in meeting our team? Be on the lookout for ecoSPEARS at these upcoming Trade Shows:
Battelle Sediments Conference
February 11th-14th, 2019
Hilton New Orleans Riverside
New Orleans, LA
February 26th-28th, 2019
Colorado Convention Center
AEHS 29th Annual West Coast Conference
March 18-21, 2019
7450 Hazard Center Drive
San Diego, CA