Have you ever sighted something strange floating in the sea? Perhaps it was a soda can that caught your eye while you were enjoying your day at the beach. Maybe it was that plastic cup you thought you spotted. With many people concerned about the cleanliness of our waters, it’s important to know what kind of trash ends up in the sea and how it gets there.
Several studies have proven that the majority of garbage found in the ocean is plastic. Whether it be shopping bags, fishing equipment, or container parts, everyone knows that plastic does not belong in the ocean. Marine life has been known to ingest this plastic, resulting in fatal consequences.
Kathleen Dohan, a Scientist at Earth and Space Research in Seattle plotted the movement of debris in a time-lapse video to determine where the garbage migrates to. She found out that the garbage typically flows to garbage pitches. These areas are found in the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Atlantic Ocean. These zones are known to be areas where debris accumulates but floats free, circulating constantly. Basically, the patches are an oceanic version of a land fill.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Apparently, the garbage patch in the Pacific is the largest, reaching to the size of Texas. During the Transpacific Yacht Race last Summer, logs, telephone poles, and wood from the 2011 Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami drifted into the patch. Scientists have reported a dozen more collisions other than the one from the Yacht Race. There is an estimated number of 100,000 to one million objects still floating in the region.
Researchers hope to build an observation system to track individual objects so that less garbage ends up in the patch.
Marine Life Concerns
Sea Turtles and California Grey Whales are known to largely be accidental consumers of plastic. 90 percent of the debris found in all five of the patches is plastic, making this detrimental to Marine Life.
Scientists have reported fish bites on polluted objects and even the disappearance of some debris due to underwater animals ingesting it.
Plastics never biodegrade, making it very harmful to the health of sea creatures. Ultimately, plastic items are left lying around in the ocean disrupting the habitat of marine life.
With these troubling scenarios regarding plastic in the ocean being so prominent, many are trying to find solutions. Groups have been raising awareness through articles and news reports to promote less plastic usage or simply more consideration for garbage. San Francisco and other cities are changing human habits and working towards zero waste. As of 2009, San Francisco citizens MUST recycle. As more and more cities become aware of these pollution issues, recycling and environmental-friendliness is becoming more prominent.
The Save Our Shores Plastic Pollution Initiative is another organization that is determined to bring peace to the ocean. They reach out to the Monterey Bay Sanctuary to provide the community with opportunities to participate in pollution prevention programs.
How can you help?
Organizations and researchers have developed and brainstormed ways to save the ocean from plastic. Any one can help keep the sea free of damaging debris. Here are a few tips for keeping the ocean unpolluted:
- Stay away from disposable plastics: Try to avoid harmful plastics that are known to get chucked, such as grocery bags, plastic wrap, straws and lids.
- Stop buying bottled water: Carry a reusable bottle instead to avoid water bottles being tossed into the sea.
- Cook More: Making your own meals does not involve containers or doggy bags.
- Recycle: Keep plastics away from the sea and into a good use.
- Buy in Bulk: You get more of the product with less of the package, hence less plastic.
- Join a beach clean up team: These can be found online or in magazines. People joining together to help keep the beaches and the sea clean is always beneficial.
- Support a bag tax: Join San Francisco and other leading cities to keep the ocean more pretty.
- Buy items secondhand: Try shopping at thrift stores where gadgets and toys are not wrapped in all kinds of plastic.
- Use Tupperware: Stay away from zip block bas and try this conservative trick for packaged lunches.
- Donate: Donate to organizations that are spending money to make the sea more natural.
- Spread the word: Let others know about too much plastic being in the ocean and harming marine life so they are more aware.
- Keep storm drains clean: Make sure no plastic resides in storm drains.
- Learn about marine life: Find out what is harmful or not harmful to creatures that live in the sea.
- Parker, Laura. Plane Search Shows World’s Oceans are Full of Trash. National Geographic. April 4, 2014.
- Ostdahl, Maggie. Plastic Pollution and it’s Solutions. Sailors for the Sea. September 2013.
- Sprinter Life. Pacific Ocean Trash Vortex. January 27, 2017.
- Sanctuary Friends Foundation. Perils of Plastic Bags in the Ocean. August 2009.