Updated: Oct 17, 2018
So, just in case you haven't heard, the ocean is filled with plastic. According to a publication of the World Economic Forum in January 2016, at least 8 million tons of plastics are leaked into the oceans. Most of this leakage is a result of plastic packaging.
Each year, at least 8 million tonnes of plastics leak into the ocean – which is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute. If no action is taken, this is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050.
By 2050, it is expected that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
There are videos going viral on social media showing miles and miles of floating plastic islands, beaches on remote islands covered in plastic. These videos put a face to the danger, and yet we're still not doing enough to slow it down.
As a child of the 80's, I grew up in a time of major environmental concern. As a species, we finally saw what we were doing to our planet and we were committed to making a difference. Of course, we wanted a better world for ourselves, but our environment and the animals we share this planet with needed immediate action. I can clearly remember watching Captain Planet every Saturday and I organized a few clean-ups around my neighborhood (and I may or may not have been the only participant in those cleanups...). Recycle-Reduce-Reuse posters were plastered all around my school and I carefully cut the plastic beverage holders so that no animals would become stuck with one around their body. This wasn't enough.
Now, as an adult, I'm paying $44/year for recycling service through my waste service, and in some places like the City of Portage and the City of Kalamazoo offer city-wide, single-stream recycling.
If you aren't already taking advantage of the recycling services around you, please take a moment to find out what is holding you back. Single-stream services have made it so easy to do the right thing for the planet, and $12 every 3 months is not a lot to pay for a better future.
Even though you may not live near a visibly polluted body of water, there are plastic fibers, invisible to the naked eye contaminating our rivers and lakes. And, if you're eating seafood from the ocean or our Great Lakes, you can bet you're ingesting plastics.
During a 2013 sample of Lake Michigan, researchers found 19,000 micro-fibers per kilometer when the surface water was strained with mesh netting. The plastic fibers are coming from fleece items being laundered. The washing machine water then enters the environment along with these micro-fibers that are too small to be filtered out in water treatment facilities.
Microbeads, like those found in face washes, toothpaste and other home and healthcare products are also causing problems for marine life. These microbeads have been phased out of health care products with the last production being in July of 2017, but they are still causing problems for our environment.
The World Economic Forum report states that only about 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling. This means that all of us can do a lot better.