Trash Island: The Vast Ocean Mystery

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By: Davis Van Skiver

Published: Nov 14th, 2018

The world is 71% water. Our Oceans hold 96.5% of all Earth’s water. In the Pacific Ocean there is an island twice the size of Texas called the Great Garbage Patch. This garbage patch was first discovered in 1990 but has most likely been growing since 1950 when plastic was invented.

This may seem like a far out and distant problem, but the United States is extremely close to the island, and it may start to affect California and the West coast with more wash-up debris.

You may also think that the actual consequences for this won’t occur soon, but by 2050 there will be more plastic mass in our oceans than fish and marine life.

“The oceans will contain at least 937 million tons of plastic and 895 million tons of fish by 2050,” The Ellen MacArthur Foundation concluded.

Recently studies have shown that marine life is even more affected than previously thought. Fish have been found with microplastics in their stomachs. Turtles have also been found with plastic straws up their noses and in their stomachs.

Ingesting the tiny particles can prevent animals, including lugworms that bioturbate the sand on beaches and serve as a food source for many ocean organisms, from consuming their natural prey, leading to starvation and even death; this then affects the food chain further up causing larger fish to not have enough food.

If this is such a huge problem and will affect our future so much, why doesn’t everyone already know? What are people doing about this? Well, movement to fix this has been happening slowly.

The biggest and most public change came recently when a major company, Starbucks, committed to reducing their use of plastic straws and looking for alternatives that are more environmentally friendly.

CEO Kevin Johnson called the move away from plastic straws a “significant milestone” in the company’s sustainability efforts. Starbucks had already committed $10 million to help develop recyclable, compostable cups for hot drinks.

Now, just eliminating plastic straws is far from the solution. But it is a start, and it has brought about a lot of awareness.

One company, The Ocean Cleanup, has devoted a huge effort to cleaning the plastic from the ocean. They have created a fleet of ocean cleaners that are made to float above the ocean’s surface and travel with the ocean’s wind and currents. These ocean cleaning devices could possibly make the ocean plastic-free by 2050.

Obviously, this is a huge issue; however, change needs to happen, and it can start with us by reducing our use of many kinds of plastic, including bottles, straws, and grocery bags.

Instead of bringing a plastic bottle of water to school everyday, get a water bottle and reuse it. Try to reuse plastic bags in your lunch, and when at restaurants ask to not get a straw. Although these things seem small, if everyone around the world did this every day, the change would be astronomical.

We can start to make a change and better our future so marine animals are still alive when our children are alive.

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