Leadership Honor Scholarship

The Ecological Impact of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

March 29, 2018

Most people have heard the saying “the world is your oyster,” but what about the statement that “the world is your dumpster?” This statement in and of itself is enough to elicit a negative response from most people, but what does it truly mean?  Human carelessness, littering, and plastic pollution all have detrimental effects on the environments, which is well known. As a reference, the annual global consumption of plastic totals to three hundred twenty million tons. The world’s oceans can often accumulate great quantities of this plastic waste, which can often form large “islands” of plastic.

Plastic Waste on Coastlines

Between California and Hawaii, an immense amount of this plastic waste and debris has accumulated to form the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” A recent study published by the Scientific Reports, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-22939-w.pdf, has discovered that this garbage patch is now 1.6 million km, which amounts to being triple the size of France. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is estimated to contain seventy nine thousand tons of plastic debris, and is growing at an unprecedented rate most scientific researchers did not predict.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

As a result of this accumulation of plastic, the    marine life in the Pacific Ocean is under great danger. Many fish species look to plankton, which are microscopic marine organisms, as their main source of nutrition. Unfortunately, as a result of plastic accumulation, fish will mistake debris as plankton and consume the plastic, which is in turn toxic and causes many fish along with larger animals such as blue whales who also consume plankton, to die. A study by the University of California and National Science Foundations discovered that up to 10% of all the fish species they encountered during their study, had plastic in their digestive systems.https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/how-plastic-winds-our-seafood-and-what-you-can-do-about-it

Plankton                                                     

 

Although it is essentially impossible to reverse the adverse effects of humans on the environment, we can still take the initiative to reduce our waste and plastic use. In order to help the effort, combat against plastic pollution, and protect our marine life and oceans, we can avoid using plastic as much as possible. Instead of buying bottled water, opt for a glass water bottle, in order to avoid excess plastic usage. You can use reusable bags instead of plastic bags when grocery shopping, and most importantly do not litter at the beach or throw any waste into the ocean. For those of you who want to donate to the cause of cleaning the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, click the following link to donate and learn more about what you can do to help reduce the negative impact of plastic pollution on our oceans. https://www.theoceancleanup.com

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