Plastic is an amazing, versatile man-made material, but it is plaguing our planet. The World Counts estimates that each year we use 5 trillion plastic bags worldwide; 10% of which end up in our oceans. They estimate that plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to decompose in landfills and 20 years to decompose in the ocean.
So, what effects does this have on the ocean and what can you do to help?
The Effects of Plastic Bags on the Ocean
Single-use plastic bags are easily tossed aside by consumers and are so lightweight that they often blow away and make their way into waterways. They are a large part of the plastic pollution problem in the world.
How Many Plastic Bags Are in The Ocean?
No one knows exactly how many plastic bags are currently in the ocean, but some statistics can help us understand how drastic the impact is. Each year, approximately 100-300 billion plastic bags enter the ocean from the United States alone, and 10% of all plastic bags that are made each year wind up in the oceans.
Of single-use grocery bags, The World Counts says only one percent are recycled and will only be used for an average of 12 minutes. In 2018, according to the Ocean Conservancy, the International Coastal Cleanup collected over 1.9 million grocery bags.
As plastic bags decompose they photodegrade, leading to smaller pieces of plastic that continue to release toxins into the water and into the bellies of marine life. The Plastic Soup Foundation estimates that by 2050, there will be more plastic, by weight, in the ocean than there will be fish.
A fish might mistake floating pieces of plastic for prey, or a sea turtle may think a bag is a jellyfish. This continues up the food chain posing real risks to animals' lives and food supplies as well as our food supply.
Putting a Stop to This Problem
With this growing issue in our world, something needs to be done to not only clean up the mess we have made but put a stop to continued pollution. Ocean cleanup organizations work hard to find a solution and remove plastic waste, many businesses are making more sustainable supply choices, and consumers are keeping sustainability and waste in mind increasingly often.
Ocean Cleanup Organizations
There are several ocean cleanup organizations throughout the world that work hard to organize volunteers and clean up our coastlines and waterways. Two of the biggest organizations are The Ocean Cleanup and Ocean Blue Project.
The Ocean Cleanup
The Ocean Cleanup is a non-profit organization founded in 2013 by Dutch inventor, Boyan Slat when he was 18 years old. Their goal is a 90% reduction of ocean plastic by 2050. They collect plastic from the ocean, recycle it, and work to minimize plastic from getting into the ocean.
The Ocean Cleanup has determined that 1,000 rivers in the world account for 80% of the plastic flowing into oceans. These rivers are the biggest focus of The Ocean Cleanup. They work to stop plastic before it reaches the ocean by cleaning up rivers and setting up barricades and tenders to keep trash from entering the waterways.
Ocean Blue Project
Ocean Blue Project is a non-profit organization based in Oregon and founded by father/son tribal members of the Choctaw Nation. Their vision is for the world’s oceans, beaches, and rivers to once again be clean and self-sustaining environments where humans and wildlife can thrive together.
This organization works to reduce the amount of plastic traveling to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean that is 1.6 million square miles, or twice the size of the state of Texas.
Ocean Blue helps people organize beach and river cleanups in their area, accepts online donations, and regularly hosts beach cleanups throughout the United States. You can support these organizations by taking part in a beach cleanup or donating online.
Ways You Can Help Reduce Plastic Waste
Everybody can do something to help keep plastic out of the oceans. Changing a few things in your daily life is a good start, but there are ways to be more involved.
- Reduce your use of single-use bags by using reusable bags when you shop.
- Recycle plastic properly.
- Participate in or organize a beach or river cleanup in your area.
- Donate to ocean cleanup organizations.
- Support legislation to curb plastic production and waste.
- Spread the word on plastic in the oceans. Sharing posts on social media is a quick and effortless way to start.
- Use biodegradable trash liners.
- Compost at home to reduce garbage bag use and overall waste.
- Support businesses that use biodegradable and sustainable methods.
- Purchase plant-based straws.
- Avoid products like face washes that contain microplastics.
- Implement reusable options in your daily life. From glass food storage to reusable water bottles, many items can be swapped out.
- Buy in bulk to reduce packaging consumption.
How beyondGREEN Helps
beyondGREEN biotech, Inc. is a USA-based manufacturer of plant-based products which are produced with the goal in mind of reducing plastic product consumption as well as aiding in the reduction of plastic pollution globally through biopolymer (raw material) technology.
beyondGREEN offers a wide variety of products to help you live a more sustainable life. From our plant-based cutlery and straws to electric kitchen composters, we make it easy to live with a smaller footprint. Shop our selection of products online today at byndgrn.com.