Imagine that you are famished for food and went into a supermarket to buy a big, delightful tuna salad sandwich. You paid for the sandwich, ripped the plastic bag with great enthusiasm and threw it away.
How much do you think you spent time with the plastic bag?
Maybe 2 or 3 minutes.
After it is thrown away, sooner or later it will float in the ocean for more than 20 years.
Actually, the real story starts right at this point. The plastic bag that you threw away commences on a journey through the gyres in the ocean. After spending some time in the ocean, around 2 years, it goes back to your digestive system by way of marine species. How loyal your plastic bag is, isn't it?
Marine pollution is a vital issue to be addressed as it directly affects the food chain, our livelihoods and our well beings. In 2015 ‘Our Ocean Conference’, President Barack Obama stated that our economies, our livelihoods and our food all depend on our oceans and he articulated the following words to stand up against the issue:
"..Because I refuse to leave our children a planet that's beyond their capacity to repair. And if all of us do our part, then I know we will clean up our waters"
Marine pollution might occur due to the great variety of wastes such as fishing gears, disposable cups, plastic utensils, medical wastes and even cigarette filters. Since these wastes are not recycled, they can be transferred from land to the ocean via, storm drains, rivers, hurricanes, etc. In the 2005 hurricane season in the US, approximately 9 million cubic yards of debris were spread across 7 km2 area. After entering into the ocean, plastic wastes are moved to the gyres with the help of ocean currents.
Gyres are defined as circular patterns of currents in an ocean basin and there are 5 massive gyres around the World.
Most of you have probably hear the news that there is an enormous island of trash twice the size of Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean and it has expanded since 1950's. This news creates the feeling of an urban myth. However, the reality is that there are many more trash islands floating in gyres.
The salty ocean water, sunlight and waves tear apart these plastic wastes into smaller pieces. These microplastics are mostly made of polycarbonate, polyethylene and polypropylene and these fancy named materials are highly dangerous for an organic life form.
The study conducted by the team of Dr. Marcus Eriksen revealed devastating results. It is discovered that the amount of debris floating in the oceans is equal to 270.000 metric tons. In addition, 92% of these debris are micro plastics which is equal to 5.25 trillion plastic particles. Imagine that you stand plastic water bottles of 2 litres up one on the top of another. With this amount of plastic trash, you can travel to the Moon and back twice. The situation is pretty disappointing, isn't it?
We, as humans, harm the sea life heedlessly as if there will be no consequences. We hold the power to protect just as we have the power to destroy. Life at sea is just too important to be ignored. If the negative consequences are aimed to be reduced, we should change our throwaway culture and give the necessary importance to waste management processes. You, as a reader, should inform your kith and kin, and we should form a united effort to stand for our oceans.
Do not forget, your plastic bag has to turn back to you as a new plastic bag, not as a toxic micro bead in your tuna salad sandwich.
Volkan Demir is a university student actively working in the private sector for the implementation of efficient energy management systems. As a potential engineer, he thinks that sustainability and environmentally friendliness should be integrated into every business and every part of daily life.
All opinions expressed on the blog are the opinion of the authors and not of SDSN Youth.