Today is World Oceans Day. The ocean remains one of the most vast and mysterious frontiers on our planet and yet, as we’ve learned — and continue to learn — it is vulnerable. Our blue planet is suffering.
Pollution alone affects more than 800 marine species around the world, a number that has jumped 20% in just the past five years. Plastic is but just one cause — increasingly, overfishing is seen as a more dire threat. The climate crisis is now a growing climate emergency, and global warming is more aptly described as global overheating.
Awareness is a start, but as recent climate events have shown, action is needed now more than words.
The five most common items found in coastal debris around the world are made of single-use plastic. Plastic food containers, bottle caps, lids, plastic bottles, straws and drink stirrers, plastic bags and cigarette filters top the table.
They’re also fairly easy to cut out of our day-to-day lives. Small steps can lead to big leaps. Cutting back on our day-to-day use of plastic can have a greater effect than may appear at first glance.
Consider, too, that there are 25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean, of which 270,000 tons float on the surface and some four billion plastic microfibres litter each and every square kilometre of the deep ocean.
A single straw plastic is just one straw, but multiply that by today’s total global population and you get more than 7.5 billion straws.
Plastics cause more than 80% of the deleterious effects on marine life associated with ocean trash. It’s estimated that plastic alone kills more than a million sea birds each year. More than 100,000 marine animals die each year from plastic entanglement and ingestion. A truckload of plastic enters the ocean every minute of the day. By 2050, there will be more plastic in the world’s oceans, by weight, than fish.
Since 80% of ocean debris originates on land, what we do here affects what happens at sea, for better or worse.
Oil spills are responsible for just 12% of the oil in the world’s oceans. More than a third of that oil, 36%, is runoff from coastal cities and industrial projects. Today there are some 500 dead zones in the world’s oceans. Taken together, they cover an area roughly the size of the UK.
Ocean pollution’s effects are long-lasting: Styrofoam takes 80 years to decompose. Aluminum takes 200 years; plastic takes 400 years.
What you can do — what anyone can do, really:
Reduce, reuse, recycle.
Boycott products — and grocery store chains — that use excess packaging. Use a reusable bag for shopping.
If you buy a product that uses a plastic “six-pack” holder — beer, soft drinks etc. — cut the plastic rings before disposing of them. In the ocean these rings expand, but don’t break, tangling and choking sea birds and other marine life.
Talk trash to your neighbours — literally. People won’t change what they don’t know about, so feel free to tell them.
Baby steps, sure, but every bit counts.