As a professional kitesurfer and marine biologist I have had the opportunity to travel around the world. From my local beach in Florida to the beautiful beaches of my home country, Costa Rica, to the exotic islands in the South Pacific, sadly I’ve seen 1st hand that there is no shoreline untouched by plastic pollution.
We live in a time where not only our ocean’s health is threatened, but so is our way of life. The very thought of a world where the ocean had become too unhealthy to enjoy it terrifies me. I would be completely heartbroken and devastated if one day the only things our unborn grandchildren will know of the oceans are the stories we tell them… How the ocean once made us feel alive, free and happy.
The global issue of ocean plastic pollution is a pressing reality and it adversely affects wildlife, wildlife habitat, and us.
Plastic Pollution Facts:
1. Billions of pounds of plastic can be found in the oceans, making up to about 40% of the world’s ocean surfaces. 80% of that plastic pollution comes from land.
2. According to an Ellen MacArthur Foundation report, it is estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year, which is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute. Due to ocean currents garbage floating in the ocean gathers in 5 giant patches, the largest being the Great Pacific garbage patch, estimated to be twice the size of Texas, with plastic pieces outnumbering sea life six to one. The report also suggests that by 2050 there may be more plastic in the ocean than fish!
3. Plastic is approximately 90% of all trash floating in the oceans.
4. Plastic does not biodegrade. Instead it is broken down into smaller pieces by the sun. Some float yet some sink affecting the entire water column. It takes 500-1000 years for plastic to degrade.
5. Plastic pollution has a direct and deadly effect on wildlife. Thousands of seabirds and sea turtles, and marine mammals are killed each year after ingesting plastic or getting entangled in it. Almost half of all seabird species, 22% of cetaceans, all sea turtle species and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic found in or around their bodies.
6. Plastic pollution affects human health too. Plastic chemicals such as BPA (Bisphenol A) can be absorbed by the body and may be linked to certain cancers, can alter hormones and have other potential negative effects on human health. Most packaged food and beverage cans are lined with BPA and dietary intake is believed to be the biggest exposure point in adults.
7. Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century. A staggering 50% of the plastic we use, we use just once and throw away.
8. Despite a growing worldwide demand for plastic, only 5% of the plastic produced is recycled effectively. Approximately 40% of plastics go to landfills, and a third of these plastics end up in fragile ecosystems such as our oceans. Landfills are among the biggest contributors to soil pollution. About 80% of the items buried in landfills could be recycled.
These Sad Truths have motivated me to make personal and professional changes to the way in which I choose to live. I’m constantly doing research and investigating new ways to live as sustainably as possible.
The good news is there is hope and there are simple ways to rise above plastic that we can all work on together as a global community. Join us in our mission for a plastic free ocean. Learn how you can make an impact with these 5 Simple Ways to Reduce Plastic Pollution.