Today, June 8th, is World Oceans Day. The focus for this years global event is preventing plastic pollution in the seas. It’s a huge problem. A sad highlight to this issue happened last week when a lifeless pilot whale was found in Thailand with 80 plastic bags in its stomach. That’s 17 pounds worth. Veterinarians tried to save the whale for 5 days but it eventually died.
Eighteen million pounds of plastics end up in the oceans every year! It’s basically the equivalent of one garbage truck full of plastic every minute being dumped into the sea. Earlier this year, scientists even found a plastic bag at the deepest point in the ocean, 36,000 feet down in the Mariana Trench.
About 80% of the plastics that end up in the ocean are coming from land, mostly from littering, but microplastics are a growing problem. What are microplastics? They’re small plastic pieces less than 5mm in size, that you probably didn’t even realize existed. Every time you wash your hair or brush your teeth, you’re putting small microplastic additives from your soap or toothpaste down the drain. Every time you wash your synthetic clothing, small plastic fibers are headed out to sea. As your tires wear on your car, those small bits of rubber have to end up somewhere. If you eat a lot of seafood, you’re probably eating microplastics as well.
There are estimates that in 35 years, there will be more plastic than fish, by weight, in the oceans. That’s crazy. Whales, turtles, fish, birds all eat this stuff and become entangled in it and die. A plastic bag floating in the ocean looks a lot like a jellyfish, and predators simply can’t tell the difference.
What can you do to help? Use less plastics. We all use and discard a lot of it, on average 185 pounds a year, and I am no exception. The average working life of a plastic bag is only 15 minutes, then its off to get eaten by a whale. Reducing our reliance on single use plastics, and properly recycling them will make a big difference on a global scale.