By 2050 There Will Be More Pounds of Plastic In Oceans Than Fish

Maggie Kimberl  |

Think you know a thing or two about pollution? Plastic trash floating in our oceans and waterways is a serious problem facing current and future generations. Learn more about it! The world's plastic problem is growing dire, and if we don't take drastic action in just 30 years there will be more pounds of plastic in the ocean than fish. This infographic from ReuseThisBag outlines the problem of plastic in the ocean.

The following content is text taken from the above infographic and provided to you in an easy copy and paste format. Please feel free to use it in any writing that references this article.

Around the world, we use over 320 million metric tons of plastic each year, 2.41 million metric tons of which ends up in oceans

  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
    • In 1997, Charles Moore first reported the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP)
    • By 2009, plastics could be found on seabeds throughout the oceans
    • By 2013, microplastics had become universally widespread marine pollutants
    • Garbage Patch Myths
      • Myth 1: The GPGP is the Only One
        • There are actually two Pacific garbage patches:
          • The Eastern Patch, between California and Hawaii
          • The smaller Western Patch, near Japan
        • Trash and plastics are collected and trapped by ocean currents in 5 major areas:
          • North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Indian Oceans
        • Garbage patches are developing along shipping routes in smaller bodies of water such as in the North Sea
      • Myth 2: A Floating Island of Trash
        • Plastic pollution is more of a dense “smog” of small bits and pieces
        • Large plastics are constantly broken down into smaller and smaller pieces, by
          • Heat
          • UV light
          • Oxidation
          • Mechanical action
          • Bacteria
        • This creates “microplastics,” pieces of plastic ranging from microscopic to the size of a grain of rice
      • Myth 3: The GPGP is the Size of Texas
        • The GPGP is actually much bigger
        • Surface area: 1.6 million square kilometers
          • 2x the size of Texas
          • 3x the size of France
        • A huge amount of plastic is contained in this area
          • 8 trillion pieces
            • 250 pieces for each human on earth
          • 79,000 metric tons
            • Equal to the weight of 500 jumbo jets

Ocean plastics are consumed by marine animals who mistake it for food, with devastating consequences

  • The Impact of Plastic Pollution
    • In January 2017, A 2-ton whale beached repeatedly in Norway
      • Visibly ill, the whale was eventually euthanized
      • Autopsy revealed stomach contain no food, but was filled will plastic bags
    • Plastic & Marine Life
      • Marine waste blocks sunlight to plankton and algae
        • Without sunlight for photosynthesis plankton and algae die
        • Food shortage works its way up the food change
        • Effects the populations of all marine animals
      • Fish Consume Microplastics
        • Filter feeders consume microplastics in addition to plankton
        • Other fish intentionally eat microplastics, thinking they’re food
          • Consume more white or colorful plastics than translucent
        • Up to 33% of the population of certain fish species are affected
      • Birds & Marine Plastic
        • In 1971, Styrofoam pellets were found in the regurgitations of terns
          • This was the first evidence of plastic pollution transferring up the food chain
        • Albatrosses are prone to eating plastic because they fish by skimming their beaks across the surface of the water
          • Feed plastic to their chicks
            • 45% of chicks’ body weight is plastic
          • Chicks die of starvation and dehydration
        • Birds are most at risk in areas where marine garbage patches are close to shore: Southern Australia, South Africa, and South America
      • Harmful Effects of Eating Plastic
        • Animals that eat marine plastics may suffer…
          • Intestinal blockage
          • Abrasive damage, and puncturing internal organs
          • Starvation, when their stomachs become too full of plastic to eat
        • Eating plastics exposes animals to other harmful substances
          • Pollutants cling to plastics in the water
          • Plastics leach BPA, a chemical linked to serious health problems
          • Drifting plastics move microorganism outside their natural range
        • When animals eat these plastics they are exposed to harmful substances that
          • Build up over time in animal’s system
          • Migrate up the food chain to other animals
          • Are eventually consumed by humans, through our food

Not just animals: Studies in 2017 found that sea salt in the UK, France, Spain, China, and the U.S. had been contaminated with plastic particles, mostly from single-use plastics such as water bottles

Improperly disposed waste makes up 80% of marine debris, but most plastic is never reused―even when sent to a recycling center

  • What You Can Do To Help
    • Plastic Recycling Doesn’t Work the Way You Think
      • Plastics are weakened by the recycling process
        • Virgin plastic must be added to recycled plastic to strengthen it
        • Recycled plastics are used in lower quality applications
          • Heavy containers become…
            • Toys
            • Rope
          • Plastic bottles become…
            • Fiberfill
            • Car bumpers
          • Eventually plastics are no longer recyclable, and they become trash

One of the most effective ways to reduce plastic pollution is to stop using single-use plastic

  • Single-Use Plastic Bags
    • S. uses 380 billion plastic bags and wraps each year
      • Most are never recycled
    • 17% of wildlife harmed by ocean plastic is connected to plastic bags and packaging
      • Sea turtles eat plastic bags thinking they’re jellyfish
      • 74% of the digestive contents of loggerhead turtles has been found to be plastic
    • Countries around the world are taking actions to reduce their consumption of plastic bags:
      • Banned plastic bags:
        • Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Bangladesh, Bhutan, France, Italy, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Mexico
      • Tax or Charge per bag:
        • Taiwan, Belgium, Denmark, Israel, Ireland
      • Partial Ban & Tax/Charge
        • Republic of South Africa, Botswana, South Africa, China, Macedonia
      • Regional measures:
        • Egypt, Somalia, India, Myanmar, Philippines, United Kingdom, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, USA, Australia
      • Plastic Bag Legislation In the United States…
        • Banned plastic bags:
          • Hawaii, Washington, California
        • Labelling, Recycling, or Reuse Programs:
          • Maine, New York, Rhode Island, Delaware, California
        • Pending/Proposed Legislation:
          • Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island
        • Failed state-wide ban:
          • Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado
        • Preemptive Ban on Municipal Plastic Bag Laws:
          • Arizona, Missouri, Idaho, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Florida, Indiana, Iowa
        • Avoid Plastic Bags & Other Single-Use Plastic
          • Bring your own shopping bag
          • Carry a reusable water bottle
          • Bring your own travel mug
          • Order your coffee without a lid
          • Refuse disposable straws
          • Buy in bulk to reduce packaging waste

The Pacific Ocean is too deep to dredge and microplastics are too small to filter out, BUT the choices of individuals can have a big impact—What will you do to stop plastic pollution?

Sources:
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-22939-w...
https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms15611.pdf
http://discovermagazine.com/2008/jul/10-the-worlds...
https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/97...
https://www.theoceancleanup.com/great-pacific-garb...
https://www.thoughtco.com/great-pacific-garbage-pa...
https://www.5gyres.org/faq/
https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/gr...
https://www.thoughtco.com/what-are-microplastics-1...
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-22939-w...
https://phys.org/news/2017-02-norway-zoologists-pl...
https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/09/15092-...
https://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/acs.est.7b046...
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