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Right now, our oceans need more help than ever. This is because recent studies have shown that there tens, if not, thousands of pieces of plastic products that floating around in the oceans. Yet, the only way to remove them is if every person, regardless of where they live and work, works to remove all plastic trash from the ecosystem before a bird, marine mammal, or sea turtle begins to choke on it. In fact, millions of tons of plastic waste enter the oceans every year while the average person living in the United States throws away about 185 pounds of plastic per year. Yet, every piece of plastic that people use on a daily basis, only to be later thrown out is still out there today.
It's also estimated that about 80 percent of all trash that is found floating around in the oceans come straight from beaches and storm water drains and most of this debris is made from plastic-based material. Even though it may take plastic based products about five centuries to degrade, they will never truly go away even they tend to break down from the sun and waves before developing into smaller pieces. Just to make matters worse, Only less than five percent of all plastic wastes that are produced are ever recovered. This is just bad news for all marine life that is effected by plastic pollution in their marine habitats. In fact, it's the animals and their ever fragile habitats that tend to take the beating from the effects of plastic pollution more than anything else on out planet.
When plastics enter the food chain, they first do so by entering the bottom through zooplankton, which can mistake micro-plastics for food. These, in turn, are eventually, eaten by larger animals. In some parts of the world, plastic waste products are now believed to be outweighing zooplankton alone. Plastics also absorb toxins from seawater like PCBs, mercury, and pesticides and has 1000 times more toxic chemicals than in surrounding waters. Studies have found that when birds ingested plastic, they could develop the toxic chemicals that can slowly kill them. While on the subject of ecosystems and food chains, a marine ecosystem that is brutally affected by plastic pollution known as a the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located in the Pacific North Gyre off the coast of California and is believe to be the largest marine garbage site in the world. This floating mass of plastic is about the size of Texas and outnumbers all marine animals by six to one. When animals come into contact with plastic, it often ends with either death on injury to the animal in question. Every year, about tens of thousands of marine mammals, birds, and sea turtles are killed by plastic bag litter in their marine environment. This counts for around 44 percent of all bird species, 22 percent of all cetaceans, all sea turtle species, and a growing number of fish species, based on studies done on dead specimens found on beaches across the globe. For example, sea turtles may mistaken a floating plastic bag for a jelly fish, and so, it will eventually eat the plastic bag. But, there is a thing of what happens when the turtle eats the plastic bag-once it's ingested, it cannot be digested, so it stays in the gut, which then, can lead to the animal accidentally both starving and chocking itself to death. Some marine mammals can die from getting entangled in plastic marine debris too. In Australia alone, it's estimated that around 1,500 seals and sea lions from from injuries relating to entanglement in marine debris.
As the plastics continue to move up in the food chain, it can only mean one thing for us, since it might be years before we know for certain how plastic pollution is affecting human health. However, we can break this cruel cycle. This can be done by being conscious consumers by stopping and thinking about what we buy and saying "no" to all single-use items. This also includes phasing out plastic water bottles and bags in favor of reusable bottles and bags, using reusable food containers, and picking up litter the next time you spend a day at the beach. Another way to break the cycle is to support bans on plastic products while invest in companies and groups that work to turn plastic waste into building material that can be used to build homes, roads, schools, and even convert into energy.
Oh, don't forget to spread the word.