Plastic has become one of the most used fabrics around the world and it is hard to imagine a world without it. Humans have reached a point where at the moment over 380 million tons of plastic are produced every year, compared to 0.5 tons in 1950 just a few decades ago. This massive increase has now led plastic pollution to be one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time.
The easy usage of plastic has led to a throw-away society as at the moment 50% of all produced plastic is for single-use purposes. This problematic habit generates loads of pollution on land, rivers and eventually our oceans. Over 10 million metric tons of plastic are being released into our oceans every year. These plastic pollutants occur in our oceans with many different size variations as plastics will never fully biodegrade and will remain at micro-level. Plastic waste will therefore affect marine life and disturb ecosystems on every level.
Some effects of plastic pollution to marine life:
- Over 2000 different species are affected by swallowing plastic or entanglement in fishing equipment.
- 60% of plankton in the North Atlantic Ocean from 1986 to 2008 contained buoyant plastic pieces. This leads to the death of plankton and the decline of the ocean as a carbon sink and more CO2 in the atmosphere, a warmer world and even more plankton dying.
- Plastic debris smother coral reefs by blocking sunlight from the phototrophic organisms. This again leads to less absorption of carbon dioxide.
- Plastics are worn by hermit crabs instead of shells, birds use it to build their nests and it is found in the stomachs of turtles, whales and albatross as they mistake it for prey which leads to starvation.
The animals in the oceans are not the only ones affected by this plastic pollution. Apart from the effects it has on climate change due to reduced absorption of carbon dioxides like mentioned before, humans are also exposed to microplastics and chemicals through contaminated seafood. An average person consumes around 74,000 and 121,000 microplastic particles every year.
How to reduce plastic pollution?
One of the best and most direct ways to reduce plastic pollution is to avoid using single-use plastics like plastic bags, cups or straws. The easiest way to do so is to carry reusable versions of those products with you. The planet will be grateful!
If you are not able to maintain the previous tip, try to recycle as much as possible. At the moment only 9% of plastic is recycled worldwide, while recycling would help preventing plastics from finding the oceans and reduce the amount of new plastics in circulation.
A third tip is to spread the word, stay alert and make others aware of the issues at hand. If you want to go a little further you can also participate in beach or river clean ups or support activist organizations like Trashpackers.
Last but not least, we are launching our new OCNS sneakers which are made of 100% recycled plastic from our oceans!