How you can help disposable plastics from ruining our ocean
I’m done with disposable plastic. Or at least, I’m trying to be. Cutting out plastic is a lot harder than I thought it would be, but I’ve been trying my best. We’ve all heard why using plastic is so terrible – most of it doesn’t degrade and spends lifetimes sitting in garbage dumps. I recently heard that every toothbrush you use will take more than 500 years before it even starts to break down. As we all go through several toothbrushes a year, I found that pretty shocking.
We also know that plastic is not just terrible for the environment: it’s also extremely harmful to a lot of animals. Knowing all of this, I’ve consciously tried to cut down my plastic consumption. But it wasn’t until I heard a terrifying projection that really pushed me to eliminate my use of plastic altogether. By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean, which is a scary thought. 300 million tonnes of plastic is produced each year, which is around the weight of every living person on this planet right now. To make things worse, at least 5 million tonnes of the plastic that is produced each year ends up in the ocean, which has led to something called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is exactly what it sounds like – it’s a massive collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean. There are two patches: the Western Garbage Patch, which is near Japan, and the Eastern Garbage Patch located between Hawaii and California.
How did it form?
In the ocean, ocean gyres occur naturally. These are systems of circular ocean currents are formed by Earth’s wind patterns and forces created by the rotation of the planet. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is confined by the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, which is created by the interaction of the North Pacific, Kuroshiro, North Equatorial and California currents. These currents move in clockwise direction over a 20 million square kilometre area.
How can you cut down on plastic?
Around 90% of all plastic in the ocean is in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. These plastics can break down over time into microplastics, which can have devastating impacts on animals and can go up to the top of the food chain.
Cutting down on the amount of plastic you consume is the best way to prevent pollution. Some handy tips include:
- Carrying around tote bags/reusable bags for groceries
- Stop using plastic bags when you buy fresh fruit and vegetables. Alternatively, look into reusable produce bags such as this one
- Eat less fish – a majority of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from discarded fishing nets and lines
- Stop buying plastic water bottles, and start carrying a reusable bottle
- Stop using straws
- Support brands that use biodegradable plastics
- Supporting companies such as The Ocean Cleanup that are taking plastic out of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and recycling the plastic into products