Every year, around 8 million to 12 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean. This is on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons already in our marine environments.
Research shows that Indonesia and China are the two biggest offenders in terms of ocean plastic pollution.
Plastic water bottles are from the United States. Food containers come from the Philippines. Plastic bags came from China. A high percentage of the trash comes from the Infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is now the collective term for countries around the Pacific Rim.
How big is the ocean plastic problem?
The huge of tons of trash in the patch looks like a floating blob halfway that is twice the size of Texas.
To address the severity of the problem, The Ocean Cleanup Project is sending out a giant floating trash collector to try to scoop it up.
The patch includes about 1.8 trillion pieces of trash and weighs 88,000 tons. If that’s hard to imagine, picture 500 jumbo jets. That is how bad the situation is, and why we need to do drastic measures to be able to help solve it.
How can we help solve plastic pollution?
Plastic pollution has been around for centuries. It only gained this much attention when it was linked to global warming and climate change.
Because of how big it turned out to be, a global-scale effort is needed to combat the problem. The best way to fight this is to completely put a stop to plastic production and use. However, the global dependency on plastic is not easy to forget.
Thus, our next best solution is to ensure that plastics are produced and used more efficiently and in a more environmentally friendly manner.
We must confront this challenge before plastics overwhelm the ocean.
When did plastic start polluting the ocean?
First discovered in the early 1990s, the garbage patch trash came from countries around the Pacific Rim. This includes nations in Asia, North America, and South America. However, studies show that a huge amount of garbage patch trash came from China and other Asian countries.
This shouldn’t be a surprise: Overall, most of the plastic trash in the ocean comes from Asia. In fact, the top six countries for ocean garbage are China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Thailand.
The United States, on the other hand, contributes as much as 242 million pounds of plastic trash to the ocean annually.
Because of the backlash it received after news broke that China contributed the most to the problem, it started taking steps to stem the tide of trash floating from its shores. They banned the importing of plastic wastes.
Where will all that waste go?
It is highly unpredictable where plastic wastes could end up. Some could be diverted to other countries. However, since most of them lack the infrastructure to manage their own waste, it could just create a new problem altogether.
The trash in the ocean could be around for a very long time. Most of these plastic wastes don’t biodegrade at all. All these trash could be with us for hundreds or even thousands of years. Since plastic had only been produced around the 1950s, we never really know how long it could last in the ocean. If left alone, the plastic could remain there for decades, centuries, or even longer.
How do plastics in the sea affect marine animals?
Ocean microplastics have lasting effects on the ocean. Fish and other marine life mistakes the pieces for food and consume them, potentially cutting their digestive tracts, or filling their stomachs so there is no room for real food.
Such actions also allow chemicals and contamination to enter the organism and harm it. It can take weeks for the plastic pieces to sink to the ocean floor as they become heavier after being eaten and excreted by fish and other animals or becoming covered with bacteria and other organisms.
From the tiniest plankton to the largest whales, plastic affects nearly 700 species in the ocean, and incredibly, trash has reached the stomachs of some of the deepest fish in the ocean.
Experts say 73 percent of deepwater fish in the North Atlantic Ocean had eaten particles of plastic, known as microplastics. That is among the highest percentages ever found in fish on Earth, according to a recent study.
Common questions about where most plastic in the sea comes from
Which country puts the most plastic in the ocean?
Several studies show that China remains to be the biggest contributor to plastic trash in the ocean. Plastic bags are their main plastic trash.
Which countries have banned plastic?
Italy, China, Bangladesh, and many African countries have started plastic bag banning programs. Many other countries are following suit, although it would most probably take some time before we can see results.
What country uses most plastic?
Because they have the largest population, it is no wonder that China tops global plastic usage. The county produces 60 million tons of plastic every year.
Whether by errant plastic bags or plastic straws winding their way into gutters or large amounts of mismanaged plastic waste streaming from rapidly growing economies, that is like dumping one at the garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute of every day for an entire year.
With most countries starting to ban the use of plastic products, the world is hopeful to see positive changes to our problem of global warming. With China trying to control plastic production, the future of our marine life looks brighter.