Plastic bottles and other materials that are made out of plastic are gradually destroying the ocean and its marine life. Every year, an estimate of 8 million tons of plastics are leaked into the ocean. This is destroying sea life and unfortunately hundreds of marine species are endangered, and some have been extinct. The UN Environment Program states, “60-90% of marine litter is made up of different plastic polymers”. This means that the majority of the litter found in oceans is plastic (What Is Ocean Plastic and What Is Being Done About It). In the future, it is estimated that 99% of seabirds will have ingested plastic.
Not only are birds ingesting the plastic, but they are also being entangled by it; the birds and other sea species are being choked by these plastic materials. 15% of species that ingest all of this plastic and are affected by entanglement from the litter, are endangered. The garbage on beaches and in oceans affects over 600 marine species. Plastic undergoes several chemical reactions that reduces it to very tiny pieces. Therefore, this means that we need to recycle the plastic before it reaches the sea (Johnson). The cost of the damage that plastic does to the marine ecosystem is rising, and in the U.S it is currently at $13 billion each year.
The capital cost of the use of plastic each year in the U.S is $75 billion. Pollution of the marine environment and air pollution is caused by the damage of this plastic. Over 30% of the capital costs of plastic are due to greenhouse gas emissions from raw material extraction and processing (Plastic Waste Causes Financial Damage).
Even though the effects of plastic waste in the environment is excessive, there are ways to slow down the negative effects. Many solutions are out there, it is just a matter of putting them into use in large companies throughout the world. First, pilot Jeremy Rowsell designed a way to pilot a plane using waste plastic from the ocean as part of the fuel mix. Knowing that over eight million tons of plastic leak into the ocean each year, he collaborated with the company Plastic Energy, who work on converting plastic to fuel and oil.
In this experiment, they blended 10 percent plastic with fuel. Rowsell successfully flew the plane from Sydney to Melbourne in this #CleanSeas campaign. Other innovative solutions are being produced everywhere, the next step is to integrate it throughout the rest of the world. Many sea creatures get strangled by plastic six-pack rings. A brewery in the United States created edible six-pack rings, made from barley and wheat ribbons, which would feed sea life rather than harm it. Also in the United States, entrepreneur Kevin Kumala created biodegradable and compostable plastic bags that can dissolve in warm water, and can even be drank. Being made of cassava starch, vegetable oil, and organic resins, Kumala explains, “I wanted to show this bioplastic would be so harmless to sea animals that a human could drink it” (Innovation Abounds in Plastic Substitutes, but It’s Behaviour Change That Will Save Our Seas). Outside of the U.
S., other countries have created or are in the process of creating more solutions to this ongoing problem. In India, edible cutlery made of a sorghum flour, rice, and wheat blend has materialized. The cutlery even comes in flavors of plain, sweet, and savory. Also, in Egypt, scientists have been working with the organic compound chitin, found in the shells of shrimp, crabs and lobsters.
They hope to create a polymer which can be used in grocery bags. Using these solutions could help ocean life and humans alike. Studies show that by 2050, the weight of plastic in oceans will be greater than the weight of fish. By using biodegradable products, plastic in oceans would lessen, and could even be beneficial as food to sea creatures. Less animals would die, and the cost for humans would be significantly reduced.
Plastic waste affects land, waterways, and oceans in negative ways. This is an ongoing issue, which only seems to be spreading throughout the world. However, many companies and organizations are putting in an effort to reduce the amount of plastic, which would ultimately benefit the world.