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.

Ocean pollution. Source: Onny Carr.

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?

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Source: NOOA Marine Debris Program.

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

9 Responses to “How you can help disposable plastics from ruining our ocean”

  1. Melissa Yoon says:

    I can’t believe there might be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050! It’s definitely a statistic that motivates me to be better at reducing my plastic consumption

  2. koverton says:

    Great idea Harriet – they’re a little bit pricey so I’m not too sure if a lot of people would be interested in buying them, but I think that eco-conscious people would definitely want to invest. Learning to become more sustainable with our lifestyles are associated with small costs, but at the end of the day, it’s all worth it if it helps protect the natural environment!

  3. Jethro Hasoloan says:

    Hi Overton, such a nice post. Perhaps, the most effective way to reduce use of plastic ban massively is by applying ban (needs government involvement). This is going to be done by the Western Australian state government starting from July next year (2018)
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-12/single-use-plastic-bags-to-be-banned-in-wa-from-mid-2018/8895518

  4. Harriet Kulich says:

    This is a great article on a pretty important topic, and I think it was a great idea to give us suggestions on how to improve our plastic usage! Those produce bags are a pretty good idea too – perhaps supermarkets could start dropping the plastic produce bags and sell these instead (like Aldi does with shopping bags)?

  5. Alice Nicholl says:

    I have the exact same rule with coffee, Kathy! It’s so important that everyone knows the little things they choose to do can make a big difference. Sometimes it seems daunting trying to cut things completely out of our routine, but making simple rules like not getting a coffee in a disposable cup is a great way of making the goal more achievable! Great read and great topic!

  6. koverton says:

    Thanks for the suggestion Emma! I have a rule where if I don’t use a keep cup or can’t sit in for a coffee, I’m not allowed to have one at all.

  7. Emma Fazzino says:

    This was a great article, very digestible. Have you heard about responsible cafes? It might be worth mentioning the movement towards reusable coffee cups in your list down below! https://www.responsiblecafes.org/

  8. koverton says:

    Great suggestion, thanks Raveena!

  9. Raveena Grace says:

    This was super interesting to read and I definitely will take note of those tips. I definitely want to preserve our oceans so this was a really great article to read. Another idea is adopting the ‘rubbish-free lunchbox’ policy where rather than wrapping up your food in plastic you can pack it in reusable containers.