Each year, more than 300 million tons of plastic is produced. Most of this plastic is used one time and thrown away. But where does it go? Plastic doesn't decompose, in fact, every piece of plastic ever made still exists somewhere on this planet today.
So where does it go? Very little is recycled, which means most of it goes back into our environment. It goes into our oceans. And there, it does not disappear, but it does break down into much smaller bits of plastic. As this process occurs, the plastic releases toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A. At the same time, this plastic acts like a sponge for other toxic chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants, or POPs. These chemicals include fertilizers, pesticides, motor oils, and pharmaceutical products.
Not-so-suddenly, our beautiful oceans have become a toxic cocktail.
The cause is pretty clear, it is us humans. We are obviously the ones producing, using, and then tossing what eventually turns into marine debris. Yes, I assure you a piece of your trash is in the ocean right now!
You may be asking yourself how does my trash make it all the way to the ocean when I throw it away!? Lets first take a look at what you are throwing away, probably plastic bags, plastic containers, or clothes meant to last forever even though you use it one time! This throw away society then leads to landfills, parks, beaches and waterways full of plastic garbage that have out lived their use yet exist much larger than us.
We currently recycle only 9.5% of the plastic produced, 50% being buried in landfills to sit for centuries, a small fraction is reproduced into durable goods, and much of the remaining plastic is "unaccounted for", lost in the environment working its way through waterways right to the ocean.
All the trash in the oceans isn't just floating on top. The majority is actually submerged below the water or sitting on the bottom. This accumulation of marine debris causes physical damage to the marine environment. As a result, crucial nursery such as coral reefs and sea grass beds struggle to support life, losing biodiversity all over the world and affection yields from important commercial fisheries.
One of the most damaging effects of marine debris comes in the form of ingestion. To many animals, the floating marine debris looks like the foods they normally eat. As a result, they gobble it up. Right now, almost half of the world's seabirds, all sea turtles, and unmeasurable amount of fish, and the majority of other marine animals have plastic in their stomachs right now. Not only does all this trash leave animals starving, or even worse, dead; but it also allows for deadly toxins to enter the food chain. Once these toxins are in the food chain, it works its way up the chain on onto you plate!
The billions of pounds of marine debris floating in waterways all over the planet doesn't just damage the environment but the economy as well. Studies show that beach goers not only spend less time at beaches full of marine debris & chemical runoff, but avoid them altogether! It is estimated that one beach goer adds about $35 to said beach's economy. The more polluted a beach is, the fewer attendees. If a beach is so polluted it results in a closure, that is an average loss of $37,030 a day. An even more damaging impact to the economy is the reduced fishing yields. Unhealthy marine environments from pollution such as coral reefs and other estuaries produce a fraction of the life healthy ones do. This results in millions of dollars lost due to low yields.