We might not know it or have forgotten about it, but there’s such thing as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch or the Pacific Trash Vortex. The patch was first predicted in 1988 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the United States.
According to NOAA, the large wind movements created colossal rotating ocean currents that pulled in and trapped waste materials from across the North Pacific Ocean, including coastal waters off North America and Japan.
Some trapped plastics decomposed into smaller pieces and were not easily visible to the naked eye because these very small particles were suspended beneath the surface of the ocean. Although very small, these plastic particles continued to leach potentially toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A, PCBs, and polymer.
While retaining the toxins, plastic continued to disintegrate and ultimately became small enough to be ingested by marine organisms. This created a direct link of how plastic chemicals entered the food chain, and how it affected human health as a result.
But plastic is not the only garbage that finds its way into the ocean waters. Several types of trash are blown by the strong winds, dumped into the oceans, or picked up by tides from the beach. All these due to irresponsible human activity. Check out some of the trash we’ve contributed to destroying the ocean and its marine life.
10- PAPER BAGS
Used for convenience in shopping and grocery stores and for gift-giving. These bags, when plasticized or made thicker and glossier for longevity and reuse, decreased their biodegradability. Which means it would be difficult for these items to be broken down or destroyed by natural process.
Plain paper bags are more reusable and transferable from store to store compared to those store embossed bags for exclusive use. Not every nation has a recycling program, and where do these items go, if not in the oceans?.
To help, you can start a simple 3R’s program at home. REDUCE- when shopping, always bring your own shopping bags, opt for a cloth-made-bag. REUSE – cloth-made-bags are more likely to be reused for several times. RECYCLE- bags that are made of textile can be recycled into cleaning cloths.
9- BEVERAGE CANS
Almost 50% of beverages we know are in aluminum cans. Cans are easily portable and do not break which are perfect containers for beers, carbonated drinks, sodas, fruit juices, lemonade, iced teas and other ice-cold drinks- Coke, Pepsi, 7-Up etc.
Almost all the garbage we throw everywhere reach the oceans. These aluminum cans will never degrade naturally and they will stay in our oceans and seas for 80-200 years ( tin cans will last 50 years at sea). Now imagine how much damage can your $1 diet coke cause? Do not dispose of them until you see a trash bin.
8- GLASS BEVERAGE BOTTLES
Compared to aluminum cans, glass beverage bottles are still popular in many countries. Glass beverage containers keep drinks cooler just a little bit longer and the bottle-making process tends to be a lot cheaper compared to modern-can-making machines.
These bottles are often the most collected recyclable items, but still thousands of these end up in our waters. Glass beverage bottles can stay in our oceans for millions of years, that’s serious damage to marine life, don’t you think?
No. 7 on this list are straws or plastic sticks/stirrers, a pack of these costs around $2, but there are more than half a million of these trash thrown into our oceans. These plastic straws stay in the waters at least 50-100 years.
I wonder if we should thank Marvin Chester Stone, (the man behind these modern thin tube plastics) when these end up destroying the marine life. Bending straws became conveniently popular, the angled straw became suitable to drinking while reclining. If you couldn’t resist the urged to use these plastics, at least dispose of them responsibly.
6- PLASTICS CUPS/PLATES/CUTLERY
When it comes to convenience and replaceability plastic cutlery, plates and cups are preferred over the usual utensils. Disposable cups, plates, and cutlery are often used in picnics and kids’ parties for several reasons.
Disposable plastic containers tend to be handier for picnics, and outdoor lunches. Like other plastic-made products, these plastic food containers harm the ocean and its marine life, around six thousand plastic-made products were thrown into the oceans and they could stay there for more than 10 years.
5- BOTTLE CAPS AND LIDS
Millions of plastic and glass beverage bottles are being manufactured monthly to keep up with our fondness of almost all bottled things.
These bottles come with either aluminum caps or plastic lids. Almost a million of these trash are found in the oceans. Caps and lids are choking hazards, and very harmful to ocean creatures and organisms. We should dispose of them properly, or donate them.
Some arts and crafts schools accept recyclable donations they could use for their projects. The colorful lids and caps create beautiful murals, you’d be surprised, these lids could beautify the environment in countless ways.
4- PLASTIC BAGS
Plastic bags are water-resistant and could hold heavier items when shopping, in short, plastic bags are handier compared to paper bags. On the contrary, plastic bags became harmful pollutants when not disposed of properly, they could get into the waters.
According to some Scientists there are toxins in plastics, and before they get blown into the oceans, they’d soaked up more toxins from the environment. Almost millions of these are scattered in our waters poisoning marine life. Plastics could also get wrapped around corals preventing oxygen and food for other organisms, thus affecting marine food web.
To help out, we should always bring our own textile-made bags, they’re as handy as plastic bags and are more durable.
3- PLASTIC BEVERAGE BOTTLES
Marine intoxication are mostly caused by plastics contaminating our waters. Millions of plastic bottles in all sizes are the most used containers for beverages, if not glass bottles. Plastics in many ways harm not only the ocean creatures but humans too.
Some plastics have Diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), this toxic carcinogen is directly linked to cancers, birth defects, weak immune system, and childhood developmental issues. Some plastics have BPA (Bisphenol A) which is found in many plastic bottles and food packaging materials.
Exposure to BPA and DEHP by drinking contaminated water or eating a fish that was exposed to the broken down toxins increase the risk of cancer and the chemical also interferes with human hormonal function.
2- FOOD WRAPPERS & CONTAINERS
Food packaging and wrappers for chips, chocolate bars, candies, and sandwiches are out there in the world’s waters. Tons over tons of these are piling up in our oceans and seas. In some developing countries, these pollutants cause sewer blockage that increases flooding.
1- CIGARETTE BUTTS
No. 1 on the list is cigarette butts, which totally makes sense. The earth’s population in 2012 reached more than 7 billion, now imagine 1.1 billion people around the world smoke an average of 10 Marlboro sticks per day, that’s around 11 billion cigarette butts daily scattered everywhere and eventually get their way into the waters, to the oceans.
I’d say 10 clouds of smoke per day is quite too low, so imagine how many tons of cigarette butts would that be if we include chain-smoking? According to some researchers, China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of cigarettes, with more than 350 million residents smoke or are former smokers.