Plastic Pollution in Ocean
How it works
The use of plastic is a part and parcel of modern life. Because of its non-biodegradable nature, plastic garbage creates hazards both on the surface and in the water of seas and oceans.
Inhabitants of the oceans are endangered due to plastic pollution. Moreover, the presence of tiny plastic particles in the marine food chain also raises questions about human health and food security. The UN Environment Assembly passed a resolution in Dec. 2017 to eliminate plastic pollution in our seas and oceans. A “Clean Sea Campaign” has already been launched to clear the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” Much more needs to be done.
In modern civilization, plastic plays a key role in everybody’s life. It finds use in every aspect of life, starting from plastic bags, household materials, automobiles, clothes, and furniture, to aircraft, spacecraft, biomedical and surgical equipment because plastics are sustainable, unaffected by acid and alkalis, and remain unaffected in nature. Industrial production of plastic started in 1950 and since then, it has gained momentum every year. The estimated amount of plastic in the world a couple of years ago was about 8.3 billion tons, of which about 6.3 billion tons were turned into plastic waste, creating tremendous environmental hazards both on the surface, and in the seas and oceans of our planet.
How are ocean polluted by plastic?
The annual amount of plastic thrown into the oceans is about 8 million tons. If it continues at the present rate, it is estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic by weight in the oceans than the total amount of fish. Only 5% of the plastic debris floats on the ocean’s surface, while the remaining 95% is submerged in water, up to a depth of 11 km from the surface. Plastic trash has been found in both the Arctic and the Antarctic. In addition to large-sized synthetic plastic materials, there are billions of tiny pieces of plastic called microbeads. These are added to products such as toothpaste, face wash, cleaning agents and abrasives. These microbeads are so tiny that they can easily pass through water filtration and sewage treatment. Microplastics also come from synthetic fabrics washed in washing machines, table salts, and tap water. A recent study established the presence of plastic fibres in 80% of water samples collected from five continents of the world.
Plastic in the ocean has a large adverse effect on ocean wildlife and inhabitants. Plastic materials under seawater are not biodegradable, but over the years, they break down into tiny particles called “microplastic”. The inhabitants of the ocean often are unable to distinguish between the microplastic and their normal food. Consequently, they consume the plastic, which is indigestible. From coral reefs smothered in bags, to turtles gagging on straws, to whales and seabirds starving and ultimately facing death as their bellies are so jammed that they cannot consume normal food. Very recently, it has been revealed that the possible long-term impacts of tiny plastic particles on the marine food chain ultimately have an adverse effect on human health and food security.
The plastic is concentrated by ocean currents in five areas of the world, referred to as “ocean garbage patches.” The largest of these is the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” between Hawaii and California. The plastic in these patches remains untreated. However, based on the UN Environmental Resolution of December 7, 2017, a massive initiative has been launched in the Pacific Ocean to clear the plastic debris, under the “Clean Sea Campaign.” Many governments have pledged to join the Clean Sea Program. As marine products become increasingly more important in the future, human civilization will heavily depend on plastic garbage-free seas and oceans.
1. U.N. Environment Assembly Resolution, Dec. 2017.