While it can be challenging to eradicate plastic from your life altogether, learning more about how your plastic consumption impacts the environment can help you become more conscious about your purchases — especially those small everyday ones (like to-go coffee cups and straws) you rarely give any thought to. Not only does plastic take forever to decompose, but it all too often ends up in our oceans - and it's doing more damage than you probably realize.
Our oceans are delicate, and they need our help right now to recover from the damage that's happened to them.
Before you make a quick purchase that contains single-use plastic or decide that switching to a plastic alternative is time-consuming or expensive consider these facts about plastic and the health of our planet's oceans.
3 Ways Plastic Impacts Our Oceans
- Plastic is killing ocean animals. Thousands of marine mammals die every year because they consume plastic trash or get caught in it. Among some of the animals that get hurt or killed are endangered species, including Hawaiian monk seals and Pacific loggerhead sea turtles. At the current rate of human consumption, scientists estimate that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.
- Plastic is polluting the food chain. Almost all plastics contain chemicals, which means that when they get consumed by fish and other animals in the ocean, they are contaminating these animals. If an animal consumes plastic but doesn't die, when another animal eats them, they too become polluted with the chemicals. An this, of course, directly impacts humans, as well as the rest of the food chain. According to researchers, nearly 35% of all fish caught for human consumption have ingested plastic - and that data is from more than ten years ago.
- Plastic is polluting the ocean. As more and more plastic ends up in the sea, the levels of hazardous materials in the water increased dramatically. The most dangerous plastic by-products are Bisphenols, which don't get diluted in water, dramatically impacting the animals, especially marine mammals like whales and dolphins. And what's even more concerning, is that as plastic trash builds up in the ocean, the oxygen levels also decrease. Did you know that the ocean produces more than 50% of the world's oxygen? Phytoplankton, the tiniest marine organism, produces more oxygen than any rainforest on land. They make oxygen through photosynthesis –– the same process as plants and trees. However, because the ocean is so vast, it is responsible for most of the world's oxygen. Plastic is threatening phytoplankton in two ways: they are ingesting microplastics and the whales, that fertilize phytoplankton through their "manure," are ingesting large pieces of plastic and dying because of malnourishment.
Plastic is hurting our oceans and the earth's biggest producer of oxygen. So even if you don't eat fish, or live hundreds of miles away from the ocean, plastic pollution affects you –– personally!
Want to help save the oceans? Start cutting out single-use plastics from your daily routine! It might seem small, but it makes a huge difference!