The Plastic Ocean

7 October 2015

 

The Plastic Ocean

There was always going to be a high price to pay when we began using plastic as opposed to other materials in our everyday lives. Man and Sea life and the worlds environment is now paying that price, estimates suggest there are some 5,000,000,000,000,000,000 pieces of plastic are currently floating around our seas and oceans right now.

Plastic is simply not very biodegradable. Did you know that if Henry VIII used a plastic bag to shop at his Ye Olde Super WalMarket and buried his shopping bag underneath one of his palaces in rural England, it would still be there there today (just about).

The impact on the environment though is no laughing matter; more than 250 animals of many different species have been rescued or found dead because of entanglement in a plastic substance. Seals and sea lions are suffering greatly and entanglement in plastic is up by 8 per cent each decade.

Sea birds often land on Pacific beaches to peck at bits of food like dead fish and other marine life and in doing so will ingest some plastic too. They don't know the difference; tiny pieces of plastic are chopped up into pea-sized chippings and mix in among the food the sea birds like to graze on.

Imagine if you were eating your meal and you discovered a piece of tiny plastic in the mix? Many sea birds have plastic in their stomachs which can affect them chemically and in other detrimental ways too. Plastic floating around the oceans is also introducing creatures into areas where they were not previously found. This is impacting negatively on those indigenous species and according to the Ocean Conservation Trust, the levels of plastic waste has reached crisis levels.

In 1950 we produced around 50 million tonnes of plastic but now in 2015 that figure has risen to more than 300 million tonnes. We simply cannot live without it as costs are driven down and everything seems to be made in, or from, plastic. There is some hope though and not everything is all doom and gloom. Across Europe, most households recycle plastic and the habit is starting to catch on in Africa and the Americas too now. In the North American continent alone, there are over 35 billion bottles of plastic water being thrown away every year. If each and every one could be recycled instead, we might be going some way to saving our planet before it becomes a plastic Armageddon.