Many scientific expeditions have been made during the past ten years to study plastic in the world’s oceans and seas. Following is some of what is known about plastic in our oceans.
1. The amount of plastic produced annually is estimated to be 300 million tons.
2. Approximately 5–10 million tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans each year.
3. Plastic exists in all oceans and seas on the planet.
4. Plastic exists in all oceans and seas on the planet.
5. Most species of sea birds and marine creatures including coral ingest plastic.
6. Well over half of all dead sea turtles have ingested plastic.
7. Many ocean plastics are toxic, such as the hormone disruptor Bisphenol-a (BPA).
8. 90 percent of ocean contamination comes from plastic.
9. 80 percent of ocean plastic comes from the land, 20 percent from ocean vessels, offshore rigs, etc.
10. Ocean plastic is estimated to last 1,000 years or more, some scientists believe forever.
10. Ocean surface plastic will photo degrade over time to microscopic size.
There are many sources of ocean plastic such as beaches, storm drains, rivers, streams, creeks, overflowing trash containers, landfills, cemeteries, ocean vessels, litterbugs, etc. In Medford, plastic enter the Rancocas Creek directly from litter and storm drains. Medford storm drains receive its plastic from overflowing trash containers and litter. The Rancocas Creek empties into the Delaware River and the plastic is transported to the Atlantic Ocean. A visit to the Palmyra Cove Nature Park on the Delaware River is a real eye opener. A significant amount of plastic washes up on the beach at Palmyra Cove Nature Park each and every day. This plastic is in route to the Atlantic Ocean. There are 5 major collection points for ocean plastic. They are called gyres due to their circular ocean currents. They are the North Atlantic Gyre, the South Atlantic Gyre, the North Pacific Gyre, the South Pacific Gyre and the Indian Ocean Gyre. The North Pacific Gyre, better known as the Great North Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest gyre and estimated to be larger than the State of Texas. Many attempts have been made to measure the amount of plastic in the ocean, however, this has met with limited success because ocean plastics come in a variety of sizes (many ocean plastics continually break into smaller and smaller pieces) and exist at various ocean depths, including ocean bottoms. One measurement of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch yielded 750,000 bits of plastic per square kilometer. There is still much to be learned about ocean plastic, however, some scientists believe that it is a catastrophe in the making.
A few steps everyone can take to reduce ocean plastic are –
- Avoid using plastic bags (sea turtles mistake them for jellyfish). Jellyfish also ingest plastic.
- Drink water from reusable bottles or drinking glasses.
- Recycle/ do not overfill trash containers/ do not litter. To learn more about this important issue, Google ”plastic in the oceans”.