Plastic Is Garbage That Threatens Our Planet

You just finished your lunch and you toss your plastic cup into the trash thinking nothing of it and continue on about your day, this happens every day all over the world with thousands of pounds of garbage. Garbage is thrown away to end up in a landfill somewhere. It is estimated that Americans on average will throw away roughly 4.6 pounds of trash a day. Less than one quarter of that is recycled, the rest is taken to landfills or incinerated (Garbage).

There is a tremendous amount of trash that is produced each day in the united states. With very little being recycled it has to go somewhere, and currently that place is the ocean.

The ocean is home to many different types of marine life, life that is being threatened by our trash. 1.4 billion pounds of trash ends up in our oceans, the majority of this garbage being plastics. There are almost 700 different spices that will ingest our plastic waste.

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Among those animals are turtles, seals and seabirds (Center for Biological diversity ). Plastic waste ending up in the ocean isn’t just an issue in the United states, it is a global issue. Plastic waste is in the ocean and it is washing up on our shores. Our planet is made up of 97 percent water, and of that percentage 70 of that is ocean. With our planet being made up of more than half bodies of water, it is important that we try to take better care of it. The amount of trash that is ending up in the ocean is overwhelming and if better measures are not taken it is estimated that by 2050 plastic waste will outweigh marine life.

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(Center for Biological diversity ).

You don’t have to live in a coastal state for your plastics to end up in the ocean. The sad truth is that the waterways in your areas may act as a conduit of sorts that will take your plastic water bottle from the gutter to the ocean. When you think of plastic pollution in the ocean you may have this image in your head that it is just hundreds of full sized plastic bags and bottles floating along the ocean’s surface. Well it is true that some full-sized plastics end up in the ocean, the alarming factor is the amount of microplastics that are on the ocean’s surface. Microplastics are what is left of the plastic debris in our environment. (Kiger) Human produced plastic is harming the habitats of marine life.

A study conducted in 2009 by a graduate student researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego set out to document human-generated garbage. (Plastic Trash Altering Ocean Habitats). There is an area known as the great pacific garbage patch and over the last 40 years it has increased in size over 100 times. During the research they noted that one marine animal was especially affected. Sea skaters live on the water’s surface and lay their eggs on naturally floating things you would expect to find on the water’s surface. This is a problem because they have now started to lay their eggs on the floating plastic, which in turn as lead to an increase in the insect in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. (Plastic Trash Altering Ocean Habitats).

The great pacific garbage patch or GPGP is a floating garbage dump in our planet’s oceans. It was discovered in 1997 by Charles Moore and named after Curtis Ebbesmeyer. The GPGP lies between Hawaii and California. The GPGP is made up of many different items, such as fishing materials, and other larger plastic debris. Fishing nets make up roughly 46 percent of the overall garbage in the patch. The rate at which the dump is expanding is alarming. Due to the oceans currents the dump is expanding further and further in diameter. Currently the dump is 7.7 million square miles. The size and volume of garbage in this dump poses a great threat to the marine life. For example, the Loggerhead sea turtle mistakes plastic bags for jelly fish, and plankton and algae are also affected when sunlight is blocked by the debris. The images below are that of map data that shows the concentration density of the debris that are found in the GPGP. The illustration below shows that while there is a large amount of garbage in the ocean it is not one solid mass, but the debris are scattered across a large distance. (The Great Pacific Garbage Patch). (L.lebreton)

Plastic was first created in 1907 and was reformulated and begun mass production in the 1940’s and 1950’s. With plastic being inexpensive to produce and rather durable it is easily produced, and odds are you are surrounded by plastics. They are easily made and can be found everywhere, from the packaging on food items, water storage to our household goods and clothing. Our planet is exploding with plastic and our marine life is suffering because of it. One of the reasons that marine life is suffering so heavily is because the majority of the plastics being produced are less dense than seawater. This leads to plastic floating on top of the water and being pulled and broken down by currents and the sun and eventually sinking to the bottom of the ocean. It is important to try to think about how we can better keep our trash out of the ocean.

One way that can help the stop of plastic products ending up in the ocean is to recycle, recycling is the process of turning waste products into new materials and objects. The public is becoming more and more aware of the need for recycling, this awareness is encouraging people to seek out sustainable materials. This has also encouraged the manufacturing of recycled products. The most common plastics that can be recycled are bottles, jugs, jars and wrappers. One key element to recycling plastics that gets over looked is the cleanliness of the plastic items. Making sure that your plastic jugs and bottles are clean is very important. If one item is left dirty or has food waste left inside it can contaminate an entire bale of plastic rendering it unusable. There are many recycling programs available nationwide that are helping eliminate waste that could end up in the ocean. Depending on your area you have several recycling options that you can use. Recycling can be included in your trash service, paying a small fee for extra recycling bins. With the state of the ocean and how much waste is ending up in the sea, cities are staring to take notice. There are several cities in the United states that are making great strides to help protect our planet and our oceans.

San Francisco is one of the leading cites with an 80% recycling rate. That impressive rate is thanks in large part to the city’s ban on plastic bags in 2007, this ban then created a domino sort of effect and soon other cities began to follow suit. This lead to the reduction the amount of garbage that would typically end up in landfills and on our beaches and in the ocean. Making recycling laws has also helped to curb the waste. In 2009 San Francisco made mandatory composting and recycling law. Along with this law, came a fine if you were caught putting compostable materials and other-recyclables into a regular trash bin instead of the proper bins. The law applies to residents, businesses and events. There are many options for people living in single homes to recycle, but what about those who live in multi-family homes? For those who live in multi-family homes you can utilize your cities drop off facilities or disposal locations, but the question is how can you find the location that is closest to you? That is where GIS comes in, GIS is geographic information system, it is a specialized computer database program that is designed for the collection, storage manipulation, retrieval, and analysis of spatial data. GIS allows you to find out the closest recycling center or drop off location. (Steinberg 4-5)

Technology is ever present in our daily lives this is no different when looking into the history of recycling. Take a company named Envision plastics, they are helping to keep our oceans clean one plastic bottle at a time. In 2018 Envision was helping to keep plastic out of the ocean. OceanBound plastic as Envision calls it is new plastic that has been made from recycled plastic collected from at risk areas. Their goal with this OceanBound plastic is to stop plastics form ending up on our beaches and in our oceans. (Envision Plastics). Envision uses their patented Deodorized Resin technology, this new technology allows them to clean and remove odors from the HDPE resin. By cleaning and removing the odors it ensures that the plastics can be used at 100 percent recycled content in new products. (Envision Plastics).

Another front runner in new technological development for cutting down plastic waste is Boyan Slat. Slat is an entrepreneur from the Netherlands, who invented a floating device, this device removes garbage that is floating on the surface of the ocean. (Lou). The Ocean cleanup was an organization started in 2013, the organization was dedicated to the development of environmental technologies. This is where slat’s floating device came into play. The device is a 600-meter-long floating tube. The tube collects things like oil, plants and trash off the ocean surface. The materials are then transported to collection areas, the device will move in the sea being pushed by wind and the current. The device was launched on September 8th from San Francisco and is headed in the direction of the GPGP. Once the trash is collected support vessels will then remove the materials that have been collected and return the items to shore so it can then be recycled into other items. (Lou)

As the ocean gets more and more littered with our trash, more and more people are taking notice. Companies are too getting involved and trying to make a positive change. Companies are also making changes by hosting and participating in clean-up campaigns. Coca-Cola held a global engagement campaign. The clean-up was called “pick it up, clean it up, sea change!” More than 200,000 volunteer hours were completed across 175 locations in 40 countries, close to 26,000 employees, friends and family took part in the clean-up. (Ocean Conservancy). Other clean-ups are heled nationwide and have been happening for a number of years. Take the International Coastal Cleanup started out small on a Texas beach and has grown in the last twenty-five years since it was started. It now includes volunteers from around the world in the hundreds of thousands. Together the volunteers have removed millions of pounds of garbage from oceans, lakes and other waterways. The annual International Coastal Cleanup is the largest volunteer effort for the ocean, bringing out hundreds of thousands of volunteers from around the world to remove millions of pounds of trash and debris from beaches, lakes and waterways while recording every piece of trash that is found. The collection and recording of the debris that is found can provide a better understanding of how serious the global problem is.

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Plastic Is Garbage That Threatens Our Planet. (2022, Jan 07). Retrieved from

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