It’s disheartening to see piles of trash while walking on a gorgeous beach next to waves of crystal clear blue water. It’s shocking to see waste paper, plastic, rubber, and all sorts of debris. An ocean of trash means a world of trouble.
The ocean’s currents take all sorts of things all over the world. Ocean currents and wind together cause giant mounds of trash to end up in random places. The easiest way to explain it is the “Pacific garbage patch.” This garbage is a vast collection floating around in the Pacific Ocean. It includes everything from cigarettes and bottles to mattresses and pieces of cars. The earth’s wind patterns create these large patches of trash. The trapped trash makes its tornado. The Mediterranean Sea’s land-based sewage includes 80% untreated, highly toxic trash that could cause disease. One of the most common things in these patches are tiny bits of plastic.
Ocean pollution experts estimate between 8 and 13 million metric tons of plastic flowing into the ocean every year. From tiny to large plastic pieces, all of these prevent natural sunlight from getting to the ocean’s water column. On average, about every square mile of the ocean surface contains more than 45,000 floating plastic chunks. This plastic pollution means microscopic life forms starve from the nutrients they need. Algae and plankton cannot survive. Fish that eat them die off. Plastics in the aquatic environment only cause harm. It takes too long to decompose.
The ocean is not a landfill. Yet, debris still ends-up in the sea. 80% of microplastics are a direct result of activities taking place on land. The other 20% is shipping pollution. When you throw away your trash, it might end up in the ocean. It falls off the truck, blows away and ends up in a sewer system. This trash goes to the rivers, which then goes to the seas.
Oceans filled with trash are a considerable concern. The harmful effects of pollution hurt plants and animals. The waste carries toxins to them, and these substances also absorb oxygen from ocean water. The sea life needs this oxygen to survive. About one million birds die every year as a result of trash and pollution in the seas. Many animals either perish, or plastic pollution throws off their reproductive cycles.
Humans might be affected by the pollution of the oceans as well. When aquatic life is thrown-off due to pollution, the food chain could be interrupted, which means that the global food supply could be thrown-off too. There may be enough fish to eat, but one day may come when these fish are toxic for consumption.
The London Convention from 1975 is an international agreement to promote the control of all sources of marine pollution. It took steps to prevent pollution by not dumping waste into the waters. The US also passed the ODA, Ocean Dumping Act, and the CWA, the Clean Water Act. These laws have made changes, but nothing to stop the pollution altogether.
Everyone can do their part to help solve the trash issues in the oceans. You can become an activist rallying on behalf of the organizations that work to clean up the oceans. You can stay away from using harmful chemicals on your land, buying products that contain microplastics. Stay updated on your local politicians’ positions on fighting for the health of oceans. The most important thing to do is educate others on this issue. Never stop studying and researching. It’s essential for generations now to step up so that future generations can enjoy those beautiful walks on the beach.
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