Currently, the most dangerous monster in the world’s oceans is not even the great white shark, the orca or the octopus. It is the PLASTIC POLLUTION. Indeed, according to the article The Plastic Problem: How much Plastic Pollution is in our Ocean?, published July 16, 2018, in the Two Oceans Aquarium blog, by the writers Jenny Griffin, Janaya Wilkins and Devon Bowen, marine plastic pollution is one of the most pressing environmental matter alarming the world nowadays.
Over the past 70 years, plastic demand has been increasing because of its cheapness, durability and long-lasting. According to Sea Shepherd, researchers observed that the production of plastics has surged “from 15 million tonnes in 1964 to 311 million tonnes in 2014”. They predict that this number will probably double over the next 20 years. Through this quantity produced, about the half is used to package, delivery and serve foods and drinks. Those are single-use plastic which is used just once and then discarded. For example, according to Greenpeace toolkit, in 2015, through “more than 6.9 billion tons of plastic waste” generated only 9% of these plastics was recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% of the remaining plastics ends up in the world’s oceans, environment and landfills.
For example, those pictures I took in Nicaragua during a humanitarian internship show the Nandaime dump in which trucks come to drop plastic waste, mainly single-use plastics.
An Ocean Full of Plastic
According to Two Oceans Aquarium, studies and analysis of marine debris conducted by the global scientific community are revealing that 8 million metric tonnes of land-based plastic, like in those photos, goes into the oceans each year. All parts of the world, “from polar regions to the equator”, are affected by plastic waste pollution. The reason is because plastic has a low density compared to water, therefore it is easily transported far and wide across the world by winds, rivers and ocean currents. Greenpeace, recognizes that because of marine debris “267 different species…have suffered from entanglement or ingestion of marine debris including seabirds, turtles, seals, sea lions, whales, and fish”.
According to Sea Shepherd, once in the ocean, under the effects of sun, waves and marine life plastic of all sizes break apart into smaller and smaller pieces, eventually becoming microplastics smaller than five millimetres in size that can absorb other toxic particles such as PCBs, DDT, BPA and methyl mercury and infiltrate food chains. Indeed, once they become this small, microplastics are very difficult to remove from the water and are often mistaken for food by marine animals. Plastic pollution is quickly becoming a serious threat to marine life and also humans, since those animals full of plastic particles end up in our plates.
This is a picture of microplastics from the Sea Shepherd website.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch also Called the Plastic Trash Vortex
According to the Ocean Clean Up website, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), discovered between 1985 and 1988, is the largest plastic accumulation zone in the oceans of the world (see zone 1 in the picture below from the Ocean Clean Up website). This patch that "covers an estimated surface area of 1.6 million square kilometers" is found in the central North Pacific Ocean halfway between California and Hawaii. The GPGP is made up of high concentrations of plastic debris and chemical sludge that have been brought by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre. Once the plastics are brought into the gyre, it stays there until it breaks down into smaller microplastics. The microplastic concentration in the Plastic Trash Vortex will continuously increase as long as we discarded plastics into the environment.
Before finding too much plastics in our oceans and going beyond a point of no return for the planet, there is a pressing need to stop the flow of plastics at its source.
Screening of the documentary “A Plastic Tide”
For my News Activist final project, I intended to volunteer to stop the plastic pollution at its sources by joining the Greenpeace’s campaign, named A Million Acts of Blue. By working in collaboration with the Green team, the Champlain College green club, I invited Champlain College students on Omnivox website to watch the documentary "A Plastic Tide" proposed by Greenpeace’s A Million Acts of Blue toolkit actions. My mission behind this volunteering work was to share knowledge on plastic pollution issue and encourage others in my community to take action themselves for a plastic-free future. The viewing finally took place on Wednesday, December 5 during the Free Block at the auditorium. Since the screening took place during the end of the semester, the majority of the students were busy with their work and study. Many students told me about their interest and disappointment because they could not come to watch the movie due to lack of time. Therefore, there were not many participants. For this reason, the organization of another screening during the next semester could be a good alternative to allow more people to come see the documentary and become aware of the issue of plastic pollution.
This is a picture of the auditorium with the documentary on the screen that I took before opening the doors for the screening.
Cover photo from: