The ocean is a polluted place, as a number of companies believe it to be a very convenient spot to place waste or industrial by-products. One of the most damaging factors, however, is the sheer amount of plastics, foils, and wrappers which all originate from consumer waste, specifically the packages which contain many of the goods and items desired by the popular human consumer base. Even the most mundane of things are shipped to and fro in plastic packaging, such as mushrooms, batteries, or tennis balls. As a result of this predicament, one of the most pressing questions of the scientific community at large is twofold; one, how can the plastic waste within the oceans be extracted, and two, how can waste be prevented from ending up there in the first place? The following essay will be addressing both of these questions.
Firstly, how does one reduce the amount of plastics within an extremely large body of water? Before this can be properly answered, the nature of plastic breakdown must be understood. Plastic is incompatible with the environment, as if it wasn’t we would be having no issue with its abundance. However, it is not indestructible, and continual exposure to moving water and the sun will erode the plastic material over a period of time. These particulates are still harmful to organisms in a wide variety of ways, arguably more so than when the plastic was whole. With this elaborated on, the task of how to extract plastics from the oceans in a safe, environmentally friendly, and cost effective manner seems much more daunting. With proper application of technology, this issue can be tackled in a relatively efficient manner. The solution I have in mind is simple in theory, but likely much more difficult to implement in practice: plastic eating bacteria. While this technology has only become a possibility within the past few years, it remains likely the most effective solution to a massive scale problem, as this bacteria will be capable of self-replication, and require no further action once introduced into the oceanic ecosystem. While this is a best case scenario, the possibility of it seeing the light of reality is becoming more and more likely with each passing day.
Secondly, how does one reduce the amount of plastic entering the ocean? The solution to this lies within biodegradable packaging and an information campaign. New packaging must be developed which allows naturally occuring bacteria to completely consume any packaging products which may end up in the ocean. Additionally, and more importantly, is the necessitation of the spread of information regarding proper disposal and usage of nonbiodegradable packaging materials. It will take time for companies to phase out the use of standard packaging, and even some may refuse to do so due to cost increases and logistical issues. However, the combination of new packaging and better knowledge regarding the packaging is by far the best solution to the problem presented.
In conclusion, the issue of the reduction of plastic waste within the world’s oceans is entirely solvable, but incredibly daunting due to the sheer scale of the problem. However, if humans decide to work together, the oceans can be cleansed of all toxic material.
Essay by: Evan Iacovelli
Willow Canyon High School