Plastic pollution in our oceans and on our beaches has triggered an environmental crisis around the world. The world’s oceans are dotted with swirling convergences made up of billions of pounds of plastic. The weight of plastic in the ocean will surpass that of fish by the year 2050 if current trends continue.
Indirect and direct effects of plastic pollution on wildlife exist. The consumption of plastic by seabirds, sea turtles, seals, and other marine mammals is a common cause of death. Nearly 700 species of animals eat and get caught in plastic litter, including endangered species such as Hawaiian monk seals and Pacific loggerhead sea turtles.
This ocean crisis must be addressed at its root. A petition was submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate plastic as a pollutant. The Center’s aim is to stop plastic pollution at the source, before it enters the water system.
People often use the terms “ocean” and “sea” interchangeably when referring to the ocean in different languages, but the two terms are different when discussing geography (the study of the Earth’s surface). We live in a plastic world. Our clothing sheds microplastic fibers when washed, and we discard single-use packaging.
We made more plastic in the first decade of this century than all the plastic in history before 2000. Plastic pollutes the world’s oceans in billions of pounds every year. From the equator to the poles, from the Arctic ice sheets to the sea floor, scientists estimate that we now have 15–51 trillion pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans. Plastic pollution affects every square mile of ocean surface on earth.
The problem is becoming more and more urgent. Over the next decade, plastic production will increase by 40 percent in the fossil fuel industry. They will use fracked gas to produce plastic in plants across the United States.
Our oceans will be filled with more plastic and toxic air pollution. Plastic pollution is a global epidemic and urgent action is needed to end it. All five of the Earth’s major ocean gyres are engulfed by plastic pollution due to the plastic’s extreme durability. One of the biggest trash patches is on the Pacific Ocean. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there is a gyre of debris made up of plastic. In this area, most plastic is accumulated. What is its size? On your mobile device, zoom in and use two fingers to easily drag the garbage patch (shown in red).
There are thousands of animals that die because of eating and being entangled in plastic, including finches and blue whales. Plastic is ingested by fish in the North Pacific each year in amounts ranging from 12,000 to 24,000. Internal injuries and deaths can result, along with plastic reaching bigger fish, mammals, and humans eating seafood. In a recent study, researchers found plastic fibers in the guts of a quarter of California’s fish.
Plastic floating on the surface of the water can fool whales into thinking it’s food. Plastic trash floating on the surface of the water can also fool turtles. Eating plastic can cause them to choke, suffer internal injuries, and die – or they can starve because they think they are full. The majority of sea turtles around the world consume plastic.
Researchers have discovered that plastic pollution affects the reproduction of many marine animals on many beaches. Every year, seabirds consume large amounts of plastic. As a result of plastic ingestion, the stomach loses its capacity to store food.
The number of seabird species eating plastic pieces is predicted to rise to 99% by 2050, with 60 percent of seabird species eating plastic pieces.. In the past decade, there has been an exponential growth in the amount of garbage ending up in our oceans, as evidenced by dead seabirds containing plastic in their stomachs.
Ingesting plastic, marine mammals become entangled with it. The habitat of Hawaiian monk seals is awash with large amounts of plastic debris, including areas where pups are raised.
The Steller sea lion has also been injured and killed by entanglement in plastic debris, with packing bands being the most common entanglement material.