As a student in West Palm Beach, Florida, I live just five minutes from the ocean. Every day, I have the opportunity to experience the glorious beauty of the Altantic from surfing the waves to sitting on the beach and watching the sunrise, sparkling across the crystal blueish-green waves. It breaks my heart knowing that our oceans are getting trashed. The amount of plastic waste in the world’s oceans is staggering. It is destroying our water, marine populations, and ecosystems. As a Christian, I am commanded to be a good steward of the earth that God created and made for us. Trashing oceans was certainly not a part of this plan. While I understood that there is plastic waste in our oceans, I was shocked at the gravity of the situation and what I discovered in my research.
I found that there are 5 gyres (a gyre is a current where bodies of water meet) in the world. Most plastic migrates to these currents. According to Condor Ferries, “More than 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals die from plastic pollution every year” (2022). Consider the Great Pacific Garbage Patch alone, which is a literal patch of plastic waste and garbage, claims “around 1.6 million square kilometers” of space. This area is larger than the state of Texas (2022). Condor Ferries further estimates that between 8-14 million tonnes “[enter] our oceans every year” (2022). Condor Ferries also claims that plastic packaging is the largest reason for the amount of plastic waste in the world’s oceans, with “79% of plastic waste [being] sent to landfills or the ocean…only 9% [being] recycled, and 12% [being] incinerated” (2022). The problem with plastic is that it never goes away. It simply breaks down into microparticles, particles in which animals in the Earth’s oceans consume. These toxic microparticles are destroying our oceans and ecosystems. From marine mammals to seabirds to sea turtles, millions of animals are consuming plastic, causing many marine species to experience severe threatening conditions and, in the worst cases, enter into extinction. We must do better.
As noted earlier, I would argue that as a Christian it is our duty to care for this Earth. But how can we do better? I would argue that it is not as overwhelming as the situation if we follow four simple steps.
We have established that plastic garbage is destroying our oceans. Despite the many irreversible effects of plastic usage, we have the responsibility to not further damage and to become better stewards of our oceans right now. This starts with reducing our use of plastic even today. Replace plastic with paper and other products that are eco-friendly. It is not that difficult. Yet there can be such a stigma around “going green” when in reality it is simply caring for this beautiful planet as responsible humans. We must stop turning a blind eye to how we participate in destroying our planet and oceans. Not only does replacing plastic with other products such as a glass mug or reusable water bottle reduce plastic waste, but it also saves us money as consumers. We do not have to keep paying for plastic goods when we reuse our own reusable and eco-friendly products ranging from reusable grocery bags, produce bags, bottles, utensils, coffee cups, etc. Simply put, it is a win-win situation to reduce plastic usage, and it is a simple step we can enforce in our lives today.
Second, we can get involved as citizens to promote legislation at the state levels to curb plastic usage. Call your legislators and local lobbyists. We should as individuals not only watch our own personal use of plastic, but also promote our society as a whole to go eco-friendly with our products. This requires community involvement, and thus, lobbying our local governments for change and enforcement of curbing plastic usage. Third, if other products are unavailable, we should take steps to recycle when using plastic. Many individuals have no understanding of how and what products to recycle. Recycling is important and should be pursued as a means to protect our planet, especially when currently there is only a mere 9% of plastic products being recycled. Let’s break that cycle (Condors Ferries, 2022).
Fourth, when we see trash and plastic by rivers and other bodies of water, we should make efforts to clean it up and discard of it properly, rather than just walking by and doing nothing. After all, plastic in any body of water will most likely find itself in the ocean. Even if it does not, that sedentary plastic contaminates that particular ecosystem and community as it breaks down in microparticles. Go the extra mile and pick up the plastic trash on the beach, in the ditches by the highways, or along the riversides. It matters.
Plastic waste in our oceans is destroying our oceans, and it is important that we take action. We can do so by reducing our plastic usage, promoting legislation to curb plastic products in our communities, recycling plastic products, and finally picking up plastic trash we find. As we take action, we display responsibility and good stewardship of this beautiful planet. The time for create change is now.
Essay by: Julia Delahunt
Palm Beach Atlantic University