Plastic pollution suffocates our oceans and smothers our beaches—this article provides a clear overview with facts and figures to illustrate just how harmful plastic litter and debris can be. Read on to learn more about the impact of plastic waste on the environment.
We’re sure (we hope!) you’ve heard of the gargantuan plastic island off California's west coast, also known as the Great Pacific garbage patch—but do you know about the disturbing news of plastic beaches and plastic sand? Our continued use and addiction to single-use items, like disposable water bottles, plastic wrap and plastic bags, is one of the major causes of this growing crisis. Plastic waste—along with the toxins and chemicals it’s composed of—is accumulating at an alarming rate in our oceans, wreaking havoc on wildlife, polluting our beaches and entering our food chain.
AS REPORTED BY NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
The convenience of disposable plastic bags has meant a dramatic increase in the number of sacks found floating in the oceans where they strangle, starve and poison wildlife. What’s more, because plastic debris moves easily with ocean currents to all corners of the globe, these bags also act as a kind of shuttle service to transport alien species all around the world—to locations they never would have been able to reach before—which can critically impact biodiversity and drastically change an ecosystem, according to David Barnes, a marine scientist with the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, England who studies the impact of marine debris.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Plastic bags are consistently one of the top two items of debris found in coastal cleanups. (Ocean Conservancy)
- On a single day in 2007, nearly 400,000 volunteers around the world picked up more than 6 million pounds of trash. The vast majority of the waste was single-use, disposable plastic items. (Ocean Conservancy International)
- Plastic pieces can attract and hold hydrophobic elements like PCB and DDT up to 1 million x background levels. This means that, essentially, floating plastic is like a poison pill for wildlife. (Algalita Marine Research Foundation)
- Plastic bags wrap around living corals, quickly "suffocating" and killing them. (U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
- Plastic pieces outweigh surface zooplankton in the Central North Pacific by a factor of 6 to 1. (Algalita Marine Research Foundation)
- The Great Pacific garbage patch, about 500 miles off the California coast, is a massive collection of plastic debris that is held together by ocean currents and stretches across the northern Pacific almost as far as the Japanese coastline. Size estimates vary (as much of the debris floats just below the water’s surface, which makes it impossible to detect via aircraft or satellite), but the island is believed to be anywhere from the size of Texas to twice the size of the continental United States. It is expected to double in size in the next decade. (The Independent, “The World’s Rubbish Dump”)
- Each year, enough trash—most of it plastic—floats down the Los Angeles River to fill the Rose Bowl two stories deep. (Los Angeles Times, "Altered Oceans")
- Of 500,000 albatross chicks born each year on Midway Atoll, about 200,000 die of starvation. Adult albatrosses mistake plastic trash for food and end up feeding it to their chicks. (L.A. Times)
What can you do? Share important information and facts with family and friends and do your part to cut down on the use of wasteful, disposable plastics. Our reusable shopping bags, bottles and containers can help reduce your plastic impact!