Plastic Waste in the Ocean is Suffocating Marine Animals

It is my intention in this essay to show how plastic waste in the ocean is causing animals to suffocate, how environments are being destroyed, and people’s health are in sake. With this in mind, the paragraphs in this essay are up-front. First, I must explain what can happen to organisms if they encounter trash such as plastic bags and food wrappers. Second, I need to demonstrate how plastic pollution affects the ocean itself. Afterwards, I am going to further explain how humans can be in danger because of this issue. The purpose of this essay is not to whine about the issue, but to argue that it is a serious problem that people need to start comprehending.  People should take full responsibility on the amount of trash they produce, or else there will be more plastic waste in the ocean than marine animals, and the problem will continue to cause immediate severe sickness to humans by contaminants. Not many people are paying attention to the use of plastic bags, water bottles, straws, take-out containers, and they do not recycle properly.

Since not many people are aware of this issue, they don’t bother to clean up after themselves, or put their trash in the right bin. We rely on plastic so much that it is leading to all kinds of trouble, so this needs to stop. There are many ways the plastic we use every day ends up in the oceans. Plastic we put in the bin ends up in landfill, most of the plastics are lightweight so it gets blown away, and from there it can clutter around drains and enter into the world’s ocean. Microbeads are extremely small pieces of material and is one of the main causes of plastic waste. Factories, industries, tankers, and ships also dump pounds of trash into the oceans. Plastic breaks down into microplastics, which are very small and can harm animals if they ingest them, which also leads to the effects on human health. It can pose a threat to animals by getting them trapped in plastic, not being able to move or eat. Some may also die after consuming different types of trash. As for people, if animals in the ocean ingest chemicals, then it is terrible for humans because they ingest fish and mammals that are contaminated. Trash such as plastic bottles, plastic bags, cigarettes, food wrappers, plastic utensils, straws, beverage cans, and paper bags are being found in the ocean. The article presents useful information that “organisms can ingest the plastic or become entangled in it; plastic waste is therefore hazardous to the entire ecosystem” (“Plastic Waste in the Marine Environment”). Most animals do not know what’s food or not, so whatever they think is food, they consume it. This can cause a slow and painful death for them because plastic cannot be digested. Seabirds are common animals that are being affected the most by plastic debris. Nearly every seabird on earth is eating plastic. Jan and Kara offer information about how “fulmars used in long-term studies within the North Sea are birds found dead on beaches” (Franeker and Law). Birds intentionally select marine litter when mistaking it for prey, since some plastics resemble natural materials floating on the sea surface. When seabirds ingest plastic, it takes up room in their stomachs, sometimes causing starvation. This is why they are so vulnerable to pollution. Other marine animals are also affected by plastic debris in the ocean.

The authors in this article, points out “the number of scientific publications on marine debris has increased dramatically in the last ten years and nearly 700 marine species are now known interact with marine debris” (Wilcox, Chris, et al.). There can be whales washed up dead on the shores because they are prone to ingesting plastic debris that floats. Sea turtles can be found washed up dead on the shores because of such enormous amounts of plastic in their system. Other animals, for example, seals, sea lions, seabirds, fish, whales, and dolphins can also die from interactions with plastic debris.  The ocean is drowning in plastics. Not only does plastic waste affect the lives of people and marine animals, but it also affects the ocean itself. The article states a fact that “due to their corrosion-resistant properties, most plastics are regarded as “hard-to-degrade” materials, which will persist in the environment for up to a century” (“Plastic Waste in the Marine Environment”). Plastic waste is one of many types of wastes that takes too long to decompose because it breaks down into smaller and smaller plastic pieces. In fact, plastic breaks up into tiny pieces because they do not biodegrade. When it breaks down into tiny pieces, it is known as microplastics. Based on the definition provided in this article, “microplastics are currently impossible to remove from the open ocean due to their small size, chemical inertness, similar dimension and distribution as plankton and fish eggs, and their distribution over the vast extent of the oceanic gyres” (Brandon, Jennifer, et al.). Larger pieces of plastic can break down over time and release these small pieces into the environment. The most commonly used plastics are grocery bags, zip lock bags, produce bags, and they are more troubling because after we use these once, it gets discarded and then it winds up in landfill. The reports given in this article, asserts that “the amount of plastic in the ocean is set to increase tenfold by 2020, and by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish (by weight)” (“Fact Sheet: Plastic in the Ocean”). If we keep producing and failing to properly dispose plastics, plastics in the ocean will outweigh fish pound for pound. If no action is taken, there will be an increase in the amount of waste in the near future. As we all know, humans eat fish and mammals from the ocean, but what most of us do not recognize is that those fish and mammals are contaminated. We need to understand how everything is connected in nature, and how the effects of marine pollution get back to us in one way or another. The article introduces news about “a growing body of literature on potential health risks. A range of chemicals that are used in the manufacture of plastics are known to be toxic” (Thompson, Richard C., et al.).

Toxins in plastic soak up other toxins from the outside sources before entering the ocean. These chemicals are eaten by marine mammals, which is not good for us since we eat them as well.  The following authors in this article, emphasizes on the term “biomonitoring (e.g. measuring concentration of environmental contaminants in human tissue) provides an integrated measure of an organism's exposure to contaminants from multiple sources” (Thompson, Richard C., et al.). This is all sort of leading back to microplastics since microplastic toxicity is emerging. Do to microplastics, there is a widespread of species in the marine environment eating tiny pieces of plastics that have chemicals in it. Now, I know what some of us might be thinking. Some of us might believe that there will always be plastic pollution in the ocean, so there’s no point of trying to solve this problem or prevent it from occurring. Cleaning up plastic waste in the ocean or preventing it from happening is not easy at all, and I agree. There are many products that either includes plastic or is made out of plastic, which is true. However, if there is no ocean cleanup proceeding, then the problem will get even worse than it already is. Even though there are pounds of trash floating in the ocean yearly, and it takes forever to get rid of it all, doing something is better than doing nothing at all. I agree with the authors that “such waste has been shown to reduce tourism revenue of regions, and is a threat to human health, via flooding, increase in disease risk and potential transfer of chemicals. It is estimated by 2050 99% of all sea bird species will ingest plastic” (Willis, Kathryn, et al.). If people do not approach this problem, then the number of species getting killed, the environments being harmed, and the sickness of human beings would only increase. It is important that anyone understands this problem because not only is it affecting the environments and the species, but it is also affecting us. People don’t clean up after themselves, produce pounds of trash every day, and most do not recycle properly, which impacts human health in a negative way. Nevertheless, there are many ways we can help save the ocean from drowning in plastic waste. First of all, we should spread the word of this serious, evolving issue of plastic pollution. If we help spread the word, then everyone will be more aware of it. Second, reduce the use of single-use plastics. Single-use plastics include plastic bags, straws, cups, water bottles and anything else you can think of. Third, recycle properly because it is important to both the natural environment and us. We must act fast as the amount of waste we create is increasing all the time. Fourth, you can help remove plastics by participating in a beach or river cleanup. It’s also helpful to support bands and organizations addressing plastic pollution. Lastly, we should all avoid products contacting microbeads, because “microbeads are designed to be disposed of via wastewater treatment infrastructure. However, wastewater treatment facilities are not designed to remove manufactured microplastic particles, which means that these are currently released into aquatic ecosystems. An estimated 8 trillion microbeads are released into aquatic environments daily via waste water treatment plants” (Xanthos, Dirk, and Tony R. Walker). If you are still not familiar with microbeads, they can be found in face scrubs, some kinds of toothpastes, body washes and they are probably in some of the cosmetics you use. Based on the information above, the article provides evidence that “recent studies reported that some cosmetic products contain approximately as much plastic by weight as there are in the plastic container packaging” (Xanthos, Dirk, and Tony R. Walker). I’ve seen brands such as Neutrogena, Olay, and Dermalogica include products that contains microbeads. These brands are popular, and many people are using their products that can harm the ocean life, due to specific ingredients in those products. Therefore, we must avoid products that use microbeads because it is harmful to the environments. We depend on plastic, and now we’re drowning in it. Millions of wastes are being thrown into the ocean, thousands of mammals are dying, people’s health are in sake, and millions of seabirds are being killed yearly. People should start cleaning up after themselves and start putting their trashes in the right bin. This issue is definitely worth caring about because the ocean itself, people, marine animals and any species near the ocean are being affected. Just because you don’t see it happening in front of you, it doesn’t mean the problem isn’t real. In addition, it takes years for plastics to degrade in the ocean, therefore, affecting the ocean itself. In conclusion, we should all be more aware of plastic pollution and must get involved in solving this problem.