Time to say ‘goodbye’ to marine life

A SEAGULL POST-AUTOPSY. Significant amounts of plastic were found in its stomach. Tim Zim/ Creative Commons

BY CAITLIN BERTOLINO

“It’s just one plastic straw,”said 7.53 billion people in the world.

In recent years, the debate about plastic use, especially single use plastic products, has become both urgent and controversial. Some argue that ridding our planet from the material should be the biggest focus for our resources while others have the audacity to say it is not a problem.

I’m assuming that everyone has heard about the Pacific Ocean, but have you heard about the The Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Sadly, probably not.

The GPGP is a floating patch of garbage that sits in the ocean between Hawaii and California. It is roughly three times the size of France and weighs almost the equivalent of 500 jumbo jets (about 80,000 tons). Yeah, you read that right.

There are actually five large garbage patches spread out across the oceans; however, the GPGP is the biggest and most extensive of them all.

The debris accumulated in these patches kills and injuries all types of marine life including turtles, dolphins, and whales. In addition, the large pieces of plastic break down into microscopic particles that are nearly impossible to find and eliminate from the ocean. These particles are consumed by sea animals and in turn, when we eat these animals, humans too consume the microplastics.

The GPGP includes fishing nets that account for 46% of the mass. Animals swim into them and cannot extract themselves from the nets. The death of these sea animals is tragic, but it also affects our food and our economy. The United Nations reported that it will take at least 13 billion USD to clean up environmental damage in oceans caused by plastic and other garbage.

So if you think the plastic problem has no effect on humans, you are so clearly wrong. If we continue to ignore this problem, it will only continue to grow until it becomes completely out of control and unable to be fixed.

Ever been snorkeling on an exotic island? The copious amounts of aquatic life is breathtaking and it all just lies within your reach. Even if you haven’t been able to make it somewhere tropical, have you ever gone to the beach and seen an occasional fish swim by your feet?

Future generations may never be able to have these experiences because marine life will cease to exist as we know it if we continue to pollute the ocean with plastic and other garbage.

How can one person take action?

You don’t need to buy a boat and some nets and go to the GPGP to clean up the garbage, but you can help from your own very home. Going to the gym and need some water? Purchase a reusable water bottle. It is by far cheaper in the long run. At the grocery store? Buy reusable bags to put your food in at the end of your trip. They come in all shapes, sizes, and patterns.

Stop using plastic straws. When you go to a restaurant and order your drink, politely tell your server that you do not need a straw. Or, when you go to Starbucks  or Dunkin Donuts , always have your reusable cup, hot or cold, ready to use. These companies actually give you a small discount off your order for not using plastic.

The littlest efforts do make a change. And it all starts with one.