OVER 5 TRILLION PIECES OF PLASTIC CURRENTLY LITTER THE OCEAN.
Trash accumulates in five ocean garbage patches, the largest one being the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located between Hawaii and California. If left to circulate, the plastic will impact our ecosystems, health, and economies. Solving it requires a combination of closing the source, and cleaning up what has already accumulated in the ocean.
Oceans, people, and plastic
When people are not in daily contact with the ocean and its diverse world or have never even seen or approached the waters of the ocean, they sometimes forget that some of the biggest problems of plastic waste are just present in this ecosystem. People unconsciously throw plastic into rivers, not thinking that plastic will sail from those rivers to the sea, then from the sea to the oceans, and finally end up in the womb of a whale, many fish, and other creatures that will never digest it. This threatens and slowly destroys the aquatic ecosystem. All these thanks to the discarded waste that could be recycled and transformed into another product.
Microplastics are the biggest problem of the aquatic ecosystem. Because these microparticles are ingested by fish during feeding, and in this way, microplastics reach all the way to the human body. These small, barely visible, or most often invisible particles are very dangerous for both the marine and any other ecosystem.
Types of microplastics
There are two types of microplastics that arise as a product of plastic decomposition:
The primary is the microplastic that reaches the ecosystem directly, in the form of small particles.
Secondary microplastics are created by the decomposition of larger plastic objects into smaller fragments of plastic, at the moment when it is exposed to the marine environment.
Microplastics usually come from the human environment, ie through the plastic, we use every day. Primary microplastics can often be added to cleaning agents as well as shower gels. It can also occur as a consequence of the abrasion of plastic objects, which occurs due to production or use. Unlike the primary, secondary microplastics can occur as a result of discarded plastic bags or remnants of fishing nets in the water.
When microplastics reach the oceans, they can either sink or float on water. A species such as propylene is lighter than water, so it floats and spreads through the oceans. Some types of microplastics accumulate on the ocean floor and thus become part of the food chain, both marine, and human.
Where does microplastic come from?
There are many ways in which microplastics are created, specifically primary microplastics, and how they are transmitted to ocean waters. One of these examples is the washing of synthetic textiles in both households and laundries. This occurs through the scattering of fibers, which then end up in the water through the sewer and thus potentially reach the ocean. These are most often polyester, polyethylene, elastin, and similar fibers.
This is one of the ways in which microplastics can reach the ocean ecosystem. In addition, plastic can sometimes be found in personal care products. Some of these products may contain the same amount of plastic as their packaging. In addition, there are the remnants of car tire erosion on asphalt, the consequences of coating boats to protect them (where several types of plastic are used), and these are just some of the examples that show us how microplastics spread in ocean waters.
Cleansing the ocean
In addition to all the examples of how plastic waste negatively affects the ocean, there are also examples that give us hope that this problem can be reduced in the future. Boyan Slat, Dutch scientist and founder of The Ocean Cleanup. It is a non-profit organization that develops advanced technologies for removing oceans from plastic. To achieve this goal, we must work on a combination of closing the source and cleaning up what has already accumulated in the ocean and does not disappear by itself. This goal means that we plan to get out of work – when we finish this project, our job is done. Boyan Slat devised a large-scale floating device. With this device, he and his colleagues are trying to clean the island of garbage in the Pacific Ocean, which is estimated to be three times larger than France. Slat told The Guardian that the system they devised gives them enough confidence in the overall concept to continue the project.
This is a large project that can help the oceans and prevent further negative impacts on the ecosystem. This kind of news indicates that there is still a solution for plastic waste and the prevention of its impact on the environment. The oceans currently suffer a lot due to man’s uncontrolled use of plastic, and then its inadequate disposal. We should keep in mind that this plastic can still come back to us, only in a different and much harder to notice form, and that is microplastic. And not in any way, but through the food we eat. The water world offers us a lot and regardless of the fact that we are not near the ocean or other water surfaces every day, that does not mean that the whole water world does not depend on all of us.
As can be seen, humans are the biggest polluters. With their uncontrolled “activities”, they managed to create so much garbage that they endangered not only rivers but also all oceans, thus endangering all plant and animal species and their own survival.
Fortunately, the awareness of maintaining a healthy environment is growing stronger, more and more movements and organizations are emerging, such as The Ocean Cleanup, which gives birth to hope for a better future. Let’s be responsible!