Plastic in our seas

Most of what we eat, drink, or use in any way comes packaged in petroleum plastic- a material designed to last forever, yet used for products that we then throw away. Today, our landfills and beaches are awash in plastic packaging, and expendable products that have no value at the end of their short lifecycle.

The short-term convenience of using and throwing away plastic products carries a very inconvenient long-term truth. Only 5% of plastics are recycled so what happens to the rest of it? Roughly 50% is buried in landfills, some is remade into durable goods, and much of it remains “unaccounted for”, lost in the environment where it ultimately washes out to sea.

Around the world, plastic pollution has become a growing plague, clogging our waterways, damaging marine ecosystems, and entering the marine food web.
In the ocean, some of these plastics float on the ocean’s surface where sunlight and wave action causes them to fragment, breaking into increasingly smaller particles, but never completely disappearing.

The floating plastics are swept up in to slow moving currents called “gyres” where they accumulate in massive quantities.  The North Pacific Gyre is roughly twice the size of the United States!  However this isn’t the only one – there are 5 major oceanic gyres worldwide, and scientists are finding that plastic debris is accumulating in all of them.
Plastic has now been found in our marine food web.  44% of all seabird species, 22% of cetaceans, all sea turtle species, and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies.  Scientists are now starting to question the potential human health impacts of toxic chemicals entering the marine food chain through plastics.

If you want to find out more about plastic waste in our seas take a look at the 5 Gyres Project or Global Garbage.