What Are Plastics Doing to the Ocean?

One of the biggest problems with plastic is that it just doesn’t break down. It is durable. This durability is a problem as well as a benefit.

How durable is it? A single plastic bag has a life expectancy of up to 1000 years. That’s pretty darned durable. Plastic bags and bottles are killing our oceans. Much of the landfill waste in the world ends up in the ocean. This may be pretty disgusting to think about but it’s actually worse than you might imagine.

Where does the waste come from? More than 80 percent of plastic material in the ocean comes from land-based waste. Hundreds of thousands of pounds are cleaned up on the shores of our oceans each year. Much of that waste is plastic bags. In fact, during the 2014 International Coastal Cleanup, volunteers collected 830,581 plastic bags and 940,170 plastic bottles.

They also found 555,007 plastic straws. It’s fair to say that plastic is a problem in the oceans but what does it do to the environment?

In the ocean, plastics break down into small particles. They contain toxins and outnumber plankton six to one. Additionally, marine wildlife often mistake plastic bags for food. Large numbers of animals including whales, dolphins, seals, puffins and turtles have been found with plastic material, usually a plastic bag, blocking their airway or impeding digestion in their stomach.

Animals are dying because of plastic waste in the oceans. It’s estimated that over 1,000,000 seabirds and marine mammals die each year from plastic ingestion of entanglement. In fact, it’s so dangerous to some animals like the turtle that we’re at risk of losing certain species.

For example, 85 percent of all sea turtles will be injured or killed by plastics in their lifetime.