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Marine Plastic Pollution

The ocean is the root of all life on earth but what happens when it becomes polluted?

Author: Banyu (Young Reporter, Indonesia)

Have you ever wondered where all the plastic trash you use goes after you throw it out? The straw you used to sip soda earlier this morning? The container your lunch meal was packed in? As soon as you’ve finished using your plastic disposables, you’re most likely to dump it all in the nearest trash bin and forget about it. But where does it go after that?

Well, here’s a big number for you. At least 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year. There is more plastic than fish in the ocean, and by 2050 it is estimated that ocean plastic will outweigh all of the ocean’s fish.

Now let that sink in. Literally.

Although floating plastic debris is currently the most abundant item of marine litter, 4 billion almost invisible microfibers per km² reside below water’s surface, at the base of the seafloor.

So essentially, plastic pollution in the ocean occurs as a result of the accumulation of plastic waste in marine environments. Plastic from the land makes its way into the oceans through sewers and rivers, is blown by the wind, or is unambiguously dumped on the beach. This is where an estimated 80% of the plastic that pollutes our oceans comes from.

So why is this such a big issue? Plastic pollution causes a number of devastating effects on the environment and particularly the wildlife. Marine wildlife mistake plastic for food, ingest it and become suffocated. According to the United Nations, at least 800 species worldwide are affected by marine debris. They may even become entangled in it and thus suffer from injuries and infections. Not only does plastic pollution impact the marine environment; it impacts us just as much. As the ocean is the origin of all life, the abundance of microplastics and other chemicals may negatively interfere with our body’s systems. For example, Bisphenol A, a common chemical used to manufacture plastic, is carcinogenic. And secondly, plastic waste damages the aesthetic value of tourist attractions, leading to a decrease in tourism-related income and an increase in costs involving cleaning and maintenance.

With that, we must do our part to become more aware of the full extent of plastic pollution as I’m sure none of us want to have to live surrounded by mounds of plastic waste. We must strive towards creating a greener environment to benefit ourselves and the living species around us. Several ways we can prevent the accumulation of plastic waste in the ocean are to reduce our usage of single-use plastics, as it makes up 89 percent of the plastic in the ocean. Furthermore, we must be sure to recycle plastic when possible, as well as to stop littering around beach areas. Also, always take a cloth bag with you before you go shopping. Although they may seem small, these individual actions you do on a daily basis can help save the world. One plastic bag at a time.

“The Ocean Cleanup.” The Ocean Cleanup, 20 May 2021, Accessed 29 May 2021.

Yakobowski, Sarah. “Global Marine Plastic Pollution: Sources, Solutions and Canada’s Role.” Parliament of Canada, 22 November 2019, Accessed 27 May 2021.

“Marine Plastics.” IUCN, 25 May 2018, Accessed 27 May 2021.

Ocean Pollution - 11 Facts You Need to Know. Accessed 28 May 2021.

Plastic Pollution Guide - Ocean Pollution Facts & Figures. Sloactive, 10 April 2021 Accessed 29 May 2021.

Single-Use Items Make up 89% of Plastic Waste in the Ocean. Accessed 29 May 2021.

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