Imagine swimming in the ocean on a bright summer day. Maybe you’re on vacation, or possibly you live by the ocean. Either way, you’re treading the water, enjoying the refreshing feel of the water and the cool breeze as you come up for air. Then, out of nowhere, your leg gets stuck in a plastic net. You reach down to free yourself, but it’s impossible to get free. You scream for help, but no one is near you, and you wave your arms to keep yourself afloat, but you can’t paddle forever. You die, minutes later, all from a plastic net stuck in the ocean floor. Thousands of sea animals have faced this same death, and unless we do something to prevent it, thousands more will die this same fate. Consuming human waste and getting caught in plastic happen to sea animals every day, and one way to combat the ever growing concern over waste in the sea is to turn our attention to big corporations.
In 2018, the United States Environmental Protection Agency calculated that 35.7 million tons of plastic was produced that year, and one can only assume that most if not all of that plastic ended up in the ocean. Consumers of plastic products are a part of this larger issue of plastic consumption, but over individual acts, acts from large companies would help end plastic consumption for good. From everyday plastic wraps that encase new toys, to water bottles and food wrappers, plastic surrounds the everyday consumer and is almost unavoidable. In an article published by Irina Ivanova, 6 million tons of plastic were produced by Coca-cola, Mars, Nestle, and Danone in 2018, making up 17% of all plastic waste produced that year. Next to oil spills and fishing supplies, plastic waste moving from landfills to the ocean is the leading cause of sea creature death and damage to the earth’s coral reefs. 1 million species are housed and fed by the earth’s coral reefs, and a loss of such an important environmental area would cause a loss of species greater than any loss the world has seen in thousands of years. It seems ridiculous that this much plastic affects our landfills and the ocean when we have such detailed recycling procedures, but the EPA says that only 10% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled. The facts may seem intimidating, but there are ways to combat this every growing problem.
Companies like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Johnson and Johnson, and more have signed an agreement with environmental organizations like the EPA to put into place regulations that will reduce plastic production significantly. By reducing packaging and using recyclable packaging that is made up of 50% recyclable materials, plastic waste is on a slight decline, and getting better every day. Incentives for these companies come in tax cuts among other things, yet nothing can be more rewarding than gaining the trust of consumers concerned with these issues that affect us all. There are also nonprofit organizations and profit organizations that work with the government, the people, and these large corporations to clean the ocean. Organizations like The Ocean Cleanup, Trash Free Seas, and more work with people and companies to caravan to sea and clean up trash. Many of these organizations rescue sea animals that have been hurt by human waste and save them, eventually returning them to the sea.
There are so many ways for everyday people and big companies to partake in saving our oceans and reducing plastic consumption. If we work together, we can combat this problem once and for all, and maybe reach a future where we can live plastic free. No one wants to be trapped in the water by plastic netting or swallow a plastic bottle, so why would we let our sea creatures face the same fate? If we turn to alternative packaging and reuse what’s already been used, we can save our natural environments and our planet.
Essay by: Alyssa Solomon
Noblesville High School