Every minute, the equivalent of one full truck of plastic is dumped in the ocean. That equals 1440 trucks per day and 8 billion kilos every year.
Bigger pieces of plastic, like bottles or plastic bags, are fragmented in de water into smaller pieces called micro plastics. This process of fragmentation is caused by sunlight, disintegration and the waves of the ocean. Animals, like fish, plankton, but also birds see these small micro plastic pieces as food. This is how plastic gets its way into our food chain. We are literally eating the plastic we threw away, but also damaging our own environment.
All this plastic that was dumped into the oceans, also to an increasing extent pollutes the beaches. Even the most beautiful beaches in the world are covered by garbage, dirt and mainly plastic that is brought there by the sea, the waves and the tide.
What is the plastic soup?
In 1997, in the middle of the ocean, captain Charles Moore discovered a large area covered with plastic pieces, large and small. Later he went back to do more research and called this the ‘plastic soup’.
Do you know what the problem is with plastic? It doesn’t consume. It may be fragmentized into multiple pieces, but it will never be digested by an animal or fish or evaporate. A lot of the plastic that ends up in the environment, like bottles, plastic wrappers, plastic bags, but also small plastic pieces; many of them end up in the ocean. Either by garbage being dumped, waste being thrown on the streets or in rivers or waste being taken by the wind.
In the oceans, the water flows. This is caused by enormous streams, tides (caused by the position of the moon related to the sun) and wind power. Sooner or later, this plastic gets caught up in one of these water streams. The plastic pieces are transported by these streams towards some central parts of the oceans. That’s where these plastic parts remain. They are basically submissive to the power of the oceans. This is how plastic soups can emerge.
Because of the degradation and fragmentation of the plastic that flows in the oceans, very small minuscule parts of plastic are being formed out of larger parts. These plastics are seen as food by fish and plankton. Plankton, the poor little creature, has its place somewhere at the bottom of the global food chain. Just as eating plastic is unhealthy for humans, it is also quite toxic for fish and plankton. Many societies, like ours, eat fist quite regularly. Plankton eats micro plastics, fish its plankton and plastic, humans eat fish. This is how these toxics emerge into our food chain.
Not to mention all the industrial waste that is being dumped in lakes and rivers and ends up in our oceans. We are basically making ourselves and Mother Nature sick.
Large areas of plastic
This is only the top of the iceberg. The plastic waste that is polluting our climate, environment and personal health is still somewhat unknown. Especially the effects of plastic waste below sea level is still quite unclear.
However, micro plastic pieces have been found up to 5000 meters under sea level. Plastic bottles have been found up until 3500 meters below sea level. And with every tide new plastic waste is being washed up ashore.
Where did this plastic come from? You can say that most plastic is being thrown on the streets, in the rivers and left in nature. People individually dump waste, but also industries dump their waste into nature. Every river and every wind eventually ends up in the ocean. The ocean takes the floating plastic towards areas far away from civilizations.
These streams are called gyres. A gyre is a natural phenomenon. It’s a rotating current system that is comprised to the earth’s rotation coupled with currents and prevailing winds. It’s basically a giant whirlpool. It takes a long time before a plastic piece fulfils the gyre, up to about 10 years toward the accumulation zone.
It’s an international issue. The plastic comes from every part of the world and is being transported by the currents all over the world.
Its very difficult to get the plastic out of the ocean, due to the enormous size of the currents, the size of the plastic soups and the size of the oceans. It is more effective to get as close to the source as possible. Therefore we should all clean up our beaches, clean our streets, clean our parks and clean our gardens.
The Ocean Cleanup
The Ocean Cleanup is an initiative by a Dutch youngster called Boyan Slat. He invented a new technology to clean up the ocean from its plastic, mainly focused on cleaning up the plastic soups. This technology uses the currents of the ocean. It is a system that catches and concentrates the plastic. The plastic will be pushed by the current into the cleaning system. This system has a U-shape and partly floats on the water. The waste is being collected and shipped to the shore.
It’s a revolutionary idea. Or perhaps it is quite simple. Perhaps what is revolutionary is that it is invented and initiated by a very young Dutch guy. He felt he had to come up with an idea to clean up the huge amount of plastic in the oceans. Somehow he managed to get attention from the public for his solution. He got funding and even the full support from the Dutch government to produce his ideas.
The plastic soup is a huge global climate issue. It is one of the main issues that effect every person in the world. It is caused by our own neglect and ignorance. We all threw away plastic waste into nature. Are we up for cleaning the oceans?
If not, it will have an effect on us sooner or later. It is probably already effecting our health, as the degraded plastic parts are already in our food chain, in the fish we eat. Perhaps it is already causing or contributing to the emerging of cancer as a severe humans disease.
The problem is not resolving itself. Nature cannot degrade plastic. On the contrary, the plastic soup is only getting larger and time will only make the problem worse, because of small parts of plastic being spread to the depth of the oceans.
We need to take action. As was mentioned: it starts at the point where plastic is being dumped into nature. Clean up your own environment. Does anyone have any ideas? Please share below!