Reducing plastic in our world would help our oceans out greatly. The senior project topic I chose to research about this year was how plastic in our oceans is affecting our food chain. I strongly believe that even if we reduce plastic usage by a little bit each year it could make a big impact in the future of our world. Right now, most of our oceans are filled with plastic materials and mass landfills. When we recycle we normally think about how we are trying to help the world and reduce the trash and landfill piles. Out of all the plastic we recycle, only 8.4% actually gets reused according to the Environmental Protection Agency. This means that 91.6% of plastic and trash floating in the ocean is causing sea life to eat and get trapped among it.
Plastic overtime can break down and turn into microplastics that can be smaller than 5mm. Fish cannot see a difference in these microplastics or the plankton that they eat. Bigger fish prey on smaller fish, which means the plastic built up in the bigger fish is way more extreme. Humans try to catch bigger fish to eat, but all of these microplastics inside, that aren’t visible, are then getting consumed by people. Studies have shown that plastic build up in the human body can cause liver and kidney issues and is overall bad for your health and bloodstream.
One way we can reduce plastic and package waste from getting into the ocean is by ordering things in mass and only getting a few packages instead of multiple per week. This results in bigger packages but less plastic used. We can also save plastic bags and reuse them for getting groceries. Some people even use fabric bags that can get used over and over without having any break. This way the cashier doesn’t even need to ask you if you want plastic bags. There are 1.7 billion food wrappers in our oceans. This is the top piece of plastic that is getting dumped. Not far behind are 1.6 billion plastic water bottles. Lots of people try to be aware of grocery store bags, but some forget about the packages food comes in, the containers being used and the plastic water bottles you are drinking out of. Tiny microplastics from water bottles can break down off of the plastic and get into the water people are drinking. This is another way plastic can get into your body.
The amount of plastic and trash in our oceans is incredibly high. When I think of environmentally friendly packaging the first thing that comes to mind is biodegradable. If packages and wrappers were biodegradable we can put them in a compost or garden at our own houses. This way, no plastic or trash will be spread and all packaging will have multiple purposes. From your home gardens to compost bins for research or animals biodegradable bags will be able to break down and no plastic will be left behind.
Studies show that by 2025 if we cut back by just a little bit a great difference can be made in our oceans. Sea life needs help and the only way for us to do so is to stop using so much plastic. Use reusable bags and water bottles, order packages in bulk, if you think you can’t make a difference, you can. Every little piece of plastic not thrown into the ocean will make a big difference.
Essay by: Abigail Rabenstein
Arizona State University