The Impact of Plastic on Our Oceans

Think about all the plastic that’s in your house right now. In your bedroom you can have plastic hangers in your closet, plastic decorations and plastic storage containers. Your kitchen can have plastic plates, cups, storage, food packaging, and utensils. In the bathroom is where you really see plastic everywhere, it's in the shower, in the cabinets, on the counters holding almost everything. Think about how often you buy these things…shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothpaste, razors, and toothbrushes. Now, think about all the plastic you acquire outside your house, when you buy food or stop at the coffee shop. The plastic adds up everywhere you go.

Many recycle what they can, which is better than the alternative but not making a huge impact. Many of these products, however, aren’t in recyclable packaging or just aren’t recycled at all. While yes, many of it ends in landfills, it takes anywhere from 450 to thousands of years to break down. The bigger problem is the plastic that doesn’t end up in a landfill. Eventually it ends up in the ocean. Everyone sees pictures online and quotes “saving the turtles,” but the reality of the problem is much bigger.

Plastic of every size is in the ocean from micro beads to large objects. These objects are all floating around in the constant tides and upwellings and being consumed by animals. Animals as big as whales have digested enough plastic that their entire stomach is filled and they can no longer digest food, causing them to starve to death. Even animals that died of natural causes have been found to have had plastic in their stomachs. These days it's rarer to find aquatic animals without plastic in their stomach than with.

 Along with digesting plastic some animals get stuck in plastic or have plastic stuck on them. This can stop animals from being able to swim, making it impossible to eat and, depending on the type of animal, breathe. Plastic can also block mouthparts, making it hard or impossible to digest food.

Image result for plastic in the ocean

Plastic is a growing problem. Some states and countries have banned plastic bags, which is a great step towards the future. Many stores have implemented plans to phase out plastic bags, giving out reusable bags with every visit. The growing need to stop plastic use has also allowed many individuals to start local businesses making bar soaps and products in ecofriendly packaging. Stopping the use of plastic can not only save the oceans but help give jobs and save money.

Consider looking into local businesses that sell ecofriendly products, or even Amazon products. Bring your own bags to the grocery store, use reusable straws, buy some bamboo toothbrushes, and make what little changes you can to lower your plastic impact. The turtles will thank you!

HCXO, Cassidy

Image courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration