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The Plastic Plague – How Plastic Pollution Threatens Our Oceans and What We Can Do About It

“The least movement is of importance to all nature. The entire ocean is affected by a pebble.” – Blaise Pascal

At this very moment, there is a plastic plague creeping around Earth and infiltrating our most precious resources. It flows from urban environments, wreaking havoc in our watersheds and oceans. It smothers habitats, imprisons and chokes animals, and leaches harmful chemicals. In our hands, plastic may improve our quality of life, but once it is freed into the natural environment, it creates death and destruction, eventually making its way back into the human food chain.

The global plastic pollution problem can be solved through education and action. Humans can halt the process of plastic entering our oceans, simply by acknowledging that there is a problem – and doing something about it.

A plastic world

Almost 1/2 of the plastic we use, we use just once, and then we throw it away. The problem is, there is no away. Every piece of plastic ever made is still in existence today. 100 million tons of plastic are manufactured every year for products that are used for less than 5 minutes. – 70 Degrees West 

We are surrounded by plastic, and it’s become invaluable to our way of life. But we have taken advantage of plastic’s plasticity. We have created a material that makes perfect disposable items, yet it lasts forever. Why would we create such a multitude of single-use products designed to last hundreds of years? Because it is easy, whispers the economic gurus. Because it is inexpensive to render plastic into the shape of a single-use water bottle, bag, toy, or packaging, and it meets the demand of the consumer.

The health of our oceans

Ripped plastic bags, used packaging and water bottles, broken toys – all are carelessly tossed into recycling bins and trash cans. From there we shove it into bottomless landfills or we burn it, trying to make it disappear. But it likes to escape from us. It blows out of trash cans and tumbles out of dump trucks. Sometimes it is even discarded intentionally, when the ease of tossing it on the ground outweighs the will to place it in a pocket until a trash can is located.

Once free of our hands and trash containers, plastic seeks out the most inconvenient nooks and crannies. It seeps into our watersheds, until wind and rain facilitate the journey into our oceans. Once it hits the coastline, plastic immediately hitches a ride on the many currents sweeping past sandy shores and rocky coasts, until it is finally seized by a major ocean gyre.

There is a swirling vortex of plastic fragments larger than the state of Texas smack dab in the middle of the Pacific ocean. We have dubbed this immense pelagic landfill the great Pacific Garbage Patch. In fact, similar garbage patches have gathered at each of the world’s five ocean gyres, creating horrifying floating masses of plastic pollution.

Expeditions to the garbage patches have yielded water samples in which plastic outnumbers plankton six to one. The Atlantic garbage patch was calculated to have a density of 580,000 plastic pieces per square kilometer.

Entanglement and ingestion threaten marine life everywhere. Birds and fish are compelled to eat red plastic in particular because it bears a resemblance to the natural red krill of the ocean. Sea turtles are drawn to plastic bags that are strikingly similar to jellyfish. Dead whales have washed ashore with so much plastic in their stomachs that they died from a blocked digestive system. When plastic is ingested, it fills up the stomach so that the animal cannot eat its normal food. It suffers from dehydration and starvation until it eventually dies.

It is not only the physical danger of plastics that must be considered, but also the chemical makeup. As plastic degrades in the water column, it releases toxins such the carcinogen diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) and the human hormone disruptor bisphenol- A (BPA). Fish and other wildlife may soak up these toxins, accumulating up the food chain much like mercury, eventually reaching humans.

We can solve the plastic problem

It has only been in the last 60 years that so much plastic has begun entering our oceans. Just a generation ago, humans used more degradable and recyclable materials such as glass, paper, and metal. Then we began manipulating plastic and manufacturing products on a grand scale to meet all of our needs.

There are so many solutions to the problem that we can pick and choose – or participate in all of them.

  • Picking up trash and not littering
  • Participating in or even leading beach cleanups
  • Supporting local recycling programs
  • Reusing single-use items instead of throwing them away after one use
  • Buying products that require less packaging
  • Using less single-use plastic

The last item is the single most important thing that each and every person can do to alleviate the plastic plague. Reusable water bottles, food containers, and bags are all excellent alternatives to single-use water bottles and plastic bags. Compostable utensils, plates, and garbage bags are becoming more widely available. More and more people are recognizing that there is a problem and we are developing solutions to combat plastic pollution. Now the issue is getting people to see how easy it is to participate and help save our oceans.

Taking action

The plastic plague is the one problem our oceans have that is extremely simple to solve. Yet it continues to threaten the health of our oceans. If every person worked to conserve waste and properly dispose of it, we could solve the plastic problem quickly and efficiently. Plastic doesn’t have to be such an environmental evil if we don’t let it. Pucci Foods values the health of our oceans and is committed to green practices – contact us for more information today.

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