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Drowning In Plastic: Moving Away From Plastic To Save Our Oceans

Drowning In Plastic: Moving Away From Plastic To Save Our Oceans

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Turtle stuck in plastic net

If you weren't aware, today, May 23rd, is World Turtle Day. It has been sponsored yearly ever since 2000 by the American Tortoise Rescue, with an aim to bring attention to, and heighten knowledge of and respect for, tortoises and turtles, and encourage human action to support them in thriving and surviving.  

So, since this is a pretty obvious one, to respect turtles and tortoises, we should respect their home right? 

It's unclear as to what quantity of unrecycled plastic ends up drifting around in the sea, the final sink of earth. Jenna Jambeck, in 2015, a University of Georgia engineering professor, caught the world's attention with a scary estimate. Around 5.3 million and 14 million tons every year just from regions around the coast. The majority of it is not thrown off the ships, her colleagues said, but is thrown quite carelessly in rivers or on the land, mainly in Asia. It is finally washed or blown into the sea. Jambeck said, think about five plastic grocery bags packed with plastic trash, perched on every foot of coastline around the world - this would correspond to roughly 8.8 million tons - a middle-of-the-road estimate of what the ocean receives each year. The duration isn't obvious yet about how long it'll take for the plastic to totally biodegrade into it's constituent molecules. Estimates vary from 450 years to never.

Plastic Waste
Image courtesy of National Geographic. Following sheets of clear plastic trash having been washed in the Buriganga River, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Noorjahan spreads them to dry, flipping them regularly— whilst simultaneously caring for her son, Momo. Eventually, the plastic will be sold to a recycler. Under a fifth of plastic gets recycled around the world. It’s less than 10 percent in the US.

Plastic bottles
Plastic bottles choke the Cibeles fountain, outside city hall in central Madrid. An art collective called Luzinterruptus filled this and two other Madrid fountains with 60,000 discarded bottles last fall as a way of calling attention to the environmental impact of disposable plastics.

The big problem is, ocean plastic is estimated to kill millions of marine animals every year. 

Almost 700 species, as well as endangered ones, are recognised as having been affected by it. A few are visibly harmed—suffocated by fishing nets that were abandoned or six-pack rings that were discarded. Invisible harm is prolific. Marine species of every size, from zooplankton to whales, presently consume micro-plastics, the foods tinier than a fifth of an inch wide. 

The head of the United Nations Environment Programme spoke of an "ocean Armageddon." at a global summit in Nairobi last December.

There's a huge difference though. Ocean plastic is not as difficult as climate change. So far, there are not ocean trash deniers. To do something about the issue, there is no need to recreate the planet's complete energy system.

Ted Siegler, a Vermont resource economist of whom has committed over 25 years working with developing nations on garbage, said “This isn’t a problem where we don’t know what the solution is. We know how to pick up garbage. Anyone can do it. We know how to dispose of it. We know how to recycle.” 

He says it's all to do with producing the necessary systems and institutions —ideally before the ocean becomes a complex soup of plastics.

Image courtesy of Justin Hofman. To ride through currents, seahorses clutch seagrass that floats or other natural debris. In the polluted waters beyond the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, this seahorse clutched onto a plastic cotton swab—“a photo I wish didn’t exist,” says Justin Hofman, the photographer.
Throwaway Living
Image courtesy of Peter Stackpole. In Life magazine in 1955, an American family celebrates the dawn of “Throwaway Living,” thanks in part to disposable plastics. Single-use plastics have brought great convenience to people around the world, but they also make up a big part of the plastic waste that’s now choking our oceans.

But it's not all doom and gloom. There's a few things you can do to help right now: 

1. No straws

The Evening Standard launched, The Last Straw initiative, which calls readers and business to no longer use plastic straws. As the fifth most used common rubbish item, they are used typically for around 20 minutes, though take roughly 500 years to disintegrate.

2. Use a reusable coffee cup

Just 1 in 400 coffee cups are recycled in the UK, and the majority cannot be anyway due to their internal plastic coating.

How many times each day do you buy coffee? Two? Three? Think of the waste.

3. Get a milkman

Yeah, really, just like your Nan did. Maybe there are still many milkmen and women making the morning drop-offs. Rather than getting your regular plastic pint, have a glass reusable bottle. You can find your local milkman service right here.

4. Replace packaging

Get rid of that cling film and those sandwich bags and replace them with long-lasting containers.

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