A global problem that is growing rapidly is plastic pollution. This is due to both an increase in industrialism. So as an increase in the number of plastics used to produce the things we use daily.
A significant number of these things are single-use items. Only used once and afterward threw in the garbage. In any case, what happens to this plastic once the garbage bin gets discharged? It does not just vanish through the air.
It usually ends up in the environment in some way or form, and most of it is eventually ending up in the ocean. Inside the plastic pollution circle, one of the most critical environmental difficulties we are confronted with today is marine plastic debris.
Marine debris originates from two common sources:
1. Land-based- includes litter from beach-goers, along with debris that has either blown into the sea or been washed in with stormwater overflow
2. Ocean-based- includes trash thrown at sea by boats and vessels, just as fishing debris like plastic strapping from bait boxes, removed fishing line or nets, and abandoned fishing gear
While disposing of fishing gear affects the marine condition by entrapping marine life and crushing coral reefs, it includes an expected 20% of all marine debris. A stunning 80% of all marine debris originates from land-based sources.
This is no surprise, considering that around half of all plastics are used to make single-use items disposed of not long after they are first used.
Plastic Pollution: Quick Facts, Figures, and Statistics
As indicated by a report released by the Worldwatch Institute in 2015, a huge amount of plastic ends up in our oceans every year.
This is the estimated number of plastic particles currently floating around in the world's oceans.
This is the number of estimated losses per year related to marine plastic debris due to the negative impact on marine environments.
What is Marine Debris?
Marine debris is characterized as any persistent solid material made or produced and directly or indirectly discarded or abandoned into the marine environment or the Great Lakes. It tends to gather in areas called ocean gyres. These are circular ocean currents formed by the Earth's wind patterns and the forces made by the planet's rotation.
The circular movement of the gyre attracts debris. Which advances into the center point of the gyre, gets trapped, and develops.
Waste form ups in gyres are known as garbage patches. For instance, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch exists in the North Pacific Ocean between the U.S. states of California and Hawaii.
Ocean Pollution in Hawaii
The culture and way of life of the people in Hawaii have always revolved around the ocean. A large portion of their meat intake is fish. Thus, ancient Hawaiians' abilities were with nets and learning different techniques on how to fish. Another way of life for these ancient Hawaiians was surfing. It was more so of an art and spiritual practice they engaged in. Not a recreational activity. When out on the ocean, they would pray to their gods to give them strength and protection. To help them in good surf. Currently, surfing has become a sought-after activity for people around the globe to take part in Hawaii. The oceans and beaches attract tourists. Generating over $14 billion yearly to the state of Hawaii. Although, with much tourism coming to the islands, it as well as produces tons of trash. Pollution is now contaminating entire Hawaii and devastating the native Hawaiian’s way of life.
Yearly Trash Census
For a long time, pollution has been a huge concern worldwide. It is threatening our oceans. Adding harmful effects to what we love from the Pacific Islands as a whole right now. The contaminants that are harming Hawaii, along with the rest of the Pacific, are;
- chemical waste
- runoff from agricultural waste
- household waste products
- sewage spills
- dumping industrial waste
- windblown pollution
Hawaii now includes warning signs along the beaches to caution people about the chemical and industrial waste that polluted portions of oceans and bays.
According to statewide reports, there is an average of 15 to 20 tons of trash that pile up on the Hawaiian beaches each year. This equals 30,000 – 40,000 pounds of trash. Despite conservation and cleanup methods, Hawaii is still facing ongoing problems. Within the past ten years, over 160 tons (which is 320,000 pounds) of garbage has been removed from the beaches of Hawaii. Rainwater is constantly washing pollutants from the inner parts of Hawaii’s mountains and hillsides into the ocean and adding to the number of waste flowing into the ocean.
Plastics are Becoming a Big Problem
The average American will discard out approximately 185 pounds of plastic material every year. In addition to this, waste disposal companies dump hundreds of thousands of pounds of plastics into the ocean annually. This isn't good in the Pacific. Where all of the plastics start forming bundles and move to the island’s bays and beaches. 60% to 80% of all reported oceanic garbage consists of plastics, which out of any other sediment waste, takes the longest to break down. The plastics in the ocean around Hawaii exceed the algal bloom in the region 6 to 1. This is a significant amount of plastic to consider since algae cover most of the ocean floor and rocks.
Naturally, if this amount of garbage is going into the ocean surrounding Hawaii, it also affects ocean life. Trash is being consumed by animals all around Hawaii. Along with the rest of the Pacific. Much of this consumption is unintentional, with some animals confusing the trash as a food source. Sea turtles would confuse plastic bags for jellyfish. It gets stuck in their throats that would suffocate them. Other animals like birds and whales are mistaking the plastics for food, which pile up in their stomachs and cannot be broken down. The tiny particles of plastics are also getting caught up in the fish’s gills. This is causing every species of wildlife to die internally. One of the biggest concerns to die in these animals by this effect is the Honu, or green sea turtle. It is an endangered species of Hawaii. Some of the waste is causing tumors on the body and organs. The outbreak of various diseases and tumors resulted from the chemical waste and other overflow toxins discharged into the ocean around Hawaii.
Many conservation groups initiated over a decade ago to help prevent pollution and waste in Hawaii. The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, for the past 13 years, has tried to clean the entirety of the Hawaiian islands. And acknowledge this to be a struggle to do. There is also another active cleanup organization, the Polluted Runoff Control Program. Their employees are a mix of volunteers and active workers, assisted with federal help. Last year alone, this group successfully removed over 3,000 tons (6 million pounds) of sediment from Hawaii’s oceans and beaches. Nonetheless, this is an ongoing battle that may never be completely won, no matter the conservation efforts.
EPA: Waters Around Two Hawaii Beaches Impaired by Plastic Pollution
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has discovered the waters around Hawaii's Kamilo Beach and Tern Island to be impaired by plastic pollution and requested state authorities to take reformative actions under the Clean Water Act. The choice overrules frequent attempts by Hawaii authorities to deny proof of plastic pollution damaging bodies of water around the islands.
The Center for Biological Diversity, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, and Surfrider Foundation sued the EPA in February for tolerating Hawaii's yearly list of impaired waters, which disregarded proof of plastic pollution in 17 bodies of water provided by the groups. Accordingly, the EPA requested Hawaii's Department of Health to inspect that proof and present another list.
At the point when Hawaii again neglected to list the famously polluted Tern Island and Kamilo Beach (nicknamed Plastic Beach), EPA Regional Administrator John W. Busterud singularly chose to show them on the second week of July this year. He requested Hawaii to include them in water-quality management plans. To diminish the effect of plastic pollutants on its waters, beaches, and environment.
"Kamilo Beach is famous for being covered in plastic, and this EPA finding will push state and government offices to confront that reality," said Maxx Phillips, the Center's Hawaii chief. "Ocean plastic pollution is an emergency here in Hawaii. It suffocates the environment and helps contaminate our beaches and our food web. Hawaii's Department of Health is currently being compelled to address this threat finally."
Plastic pollution in Hawaii ranges from microplastics that pollute coastal waters. So as harm marine life to huge tons of plastic waste along Kamilo Beach. The Clean Water Act requires the EPA to assign as "impaired" all bodies of water. That neglects to fulfill state water-quality guidelines. When a water body is assigned as impaired, authorities must make a move to lessen the pollution.
"We are encouraged that the EPA is finding a way to address plastic pollution in the ocean and on our beaches, as a significant reason for water quality impairment,” said Angela Howe, Surfrider Foundation's legal chief. "Our Hawaii chapters and whole chapter organize the nation over are focused on tending to the trouble of plastic pollution, including using the full degree of our clean water laws, such as here."
Plastic pollution poses a significant threat to Hawaii’s water quality and at-risk marine environment. Microplastics, or plastics that have broken into tiny pieces, are rising as a major threat to marine wildlife and water quality. Microplastics can absorb environmental toxins. Then get eaten by fish and other marine life. Eventually, it is ingested by humans.
“While we appreciate this enormous step with the listing of these two sites as impaired, there is great work still to be done. Most of the waters and coastlines of Hawaii are troubled by marine debris and microplastic, leaving them unquestionably impaired,” said Rafael Bergstrom, executive director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii. “Our Department of Health should be concerned about the severity of the issue and not evading responsibility. We must hold the fossil fuel industry and plastic producers responsible for this unnecessary damage.”
How Can We Solve Plastic Pollution?
We need to address the problem of marine debris head-on. It is not just an issue for the environmentally conscious, and it is an issue that ultimately impacts human health. Man is a top predator that consumes various ocean fish, shellfish, and other marine species. We face the same danger as killer whales and polar bears.
While any plastic or polystyrene pellets that may have been clogging the gut of the fish that is nicely served on your dinner plate have been long removed, the toxic contaminants originating from that debris are still stored in the flesh you are about to eat.
How To Avoid Plastic and Reduce Plastic Waste?
We can start plastic pollution reduction by changing our habits. Reducing your use of single-use plastics will lessen the demand. Avoid purchasing items wrapped in plastic. Choosing to use reusable produce bags is a quick win to change what you buy in your grocery shop. Proper recycling will help reduce plastic waste – only 9% of plastic is recycled worldwide.
Think of ways to transform old items rather than throwing them or buying new ones. Supporting charities that address plastic pollution and signing petitions for bans will increase your impact on the cause.
Participate in or organize beach/river cleanups. Wearing clothing made from natural (non-synthetic) materials, like organic cotton, silk, and linen, will stop plastic microfibers from making their way into the ocean and to our food chain.
Here are some more practical tips for avoiding plastic every day:
Reusable Water Bottle
Avoid bottled water and buy a decent water filter—a reusable stainless steel bottle or a glass bottle. There are collapsible options for the city people.
Reusable Shopping Bag
Store reusable shopping bags with you. It could be in your car, work bag, jacket pocket, or next to your front door. They are cheap, and there are foldable/pocket options.
3-minute Beach Tidy
If you spend time enjoying the beach and the ocean, there is the best way to pay mother nature a thank you. Make it your pre-surf/dive/swim ritual: spend 3 minutes picking up trash from the beach.
Stop eating on the go. Slow down and take time to enjoy your food. Dine-in or take a lunchbox. Reduce your use of disposable cutlery, plates, and packaging and recycle as much as possible.
Say No To Straws
Americans use 500 million drinking straws every day. Now imagine how that converts to the rest of the world. If you can’t get hold of a day without straws, carry a stainless steel straw in your bag.
Reusable Coffee Cups
We all love our coffee and tea, but it has an impact on our environment. Bring a reusable coffee cup with you. There are plenty of options available, from bamboo to collapsible silicone cups to glass cups.