Plastic pollutes oceans across the world


“It’s only one straw said eight billion people,” Development and Operations Manager of the organization “Plastic Oceans” John Kost said via phone call.
The ocean covers more than 70% of Earth and is filled with over 700,000 different species of sea life. But, 10% of these oceans are littered with trash, creating an increasing amount of 269,000 tons and 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic floating on the surface according to
Whether it is enjoying an ice cold drink out of a plastic water bottle or using plastic bags to carry groceries, humans contribute to plastic pollution as well as the deaths of 100,000 sea creatures each year. In a survey taken by a small sample of 12 students at Olentangy High School, 78% admitted to using plastic products every day.
On average, 150 plastic bags are used by one person each year around the globe, which means worldwide, shoppers use 500 billion plastic bags every year according to A large amount of these bags end up in the ocean, contributing to growing garbage patches and the deaths of an abundance of sea creatures. 267 different species of ocean animals have been affected through entanglement or digestion of plastic debris. Plastic can take years to break down, making it extremely dangerous for an animal to ingest.
“It (plastic) takes hundreds of years to break down. Something we use for minutes lasts for a long time in our environment,” AP Environmental teacher Julie Effler said.
In addition, the plastic releases toxins as it breaks down, contaminating the habitat of ocean life according to Through the use of plastic bags, billions of people add to the growing amount of plastic in the oceans and in sea creatures’ stomachs. The smallest efforts of buying reusable bags, straws and water bottles can help the smallest of sea creatures suffering from plastic pollution in the oceans all around the world. This conservation would help to empty the world’s waters of plastic and refill them with marine life.
It is difficult to give up all plastic products completely due to the population’s reliance on the convenience of them. But, small, effortless steps can be taken to reduce the amount of plastic each person wastes individually. Reusable water bottle brands such as “Swell” and “Hydroflask” have become more popular, making it easier to ditch the plastic bottles and invest in a reusable one.
It is not only new water bottle brands which can help decrease plastic waste, big food companies across the U.S. have made an effort to help the environment by eliminating plastic straws completely. Starbucks hands out more than one billion straws each year but has now become the largest retailer to eliminate single-use plastic straws according to The “coffee giant” has created sippable, strawless lids that are both recyclable and biodegradable to help with the abundance of plastic waste across America. In addition, some parts of California have even gone to the extremes, threatening to make it illegal for waiters to give out straws to customers. Waiters could now face criminal penalties for handing straws to customers if a recently proposed California bill goes into effect according to Although making straws illegal is a bit on the extreme side, it is a step in the right direction to gear people towards reusable products instead of plastic.
Additionally, plastic has not just affected the use of straws in the food industry but also the fish served at those restaurants.
“When animals ingest the plastic, we in turn are ingesting that plastic again as we eat the fish,” Kost said.
According to Kost, a recent study revealed the plastic ingested by seagulls and other birds contains harmful chemicals that are attached to the litter. If this holds true for the plastic in fish’s stomachs, humans are not just ingesting microscopic pieces of plastic but also harmful chemicals which are detrimental to the population’s health.
An increased awareness and advocating for recycling could help to minimize the plastic toxins in the oceans and overall benefit the environment through the decrease of trash in the landfill and in human’s food.
“I believe a better sorting system with multiple buckets for different types of recycled goods should be developed so that we can show that more than just plastic can be recycled,” AP Environmental student Preston S. ‘21 said.
Another solution to the increasing issue of plastic waste is the involvement of the government.
“World leaders need to come together to figure out how to minimize our plastic use. Corporations need to be offered incentives for using less. Taxes for those who use or subsidies for those who don’t use could be beneficial,” Effler said.
“The government stopping the production of plastic bags and for people to stop using plastic Tupperware,” Charlotte P. ‘21 said are two other ways the government can help the environment.
Certain groups may argue for plastic bags claiming they should not be banned and are much cheaper and more convenient than paper or cotton bags. Additionally, paper and cotton bags are claimed to be just as bad for the environment as plastic. Although plastic bags are one of the top contributors to the pollution of the earth’s oceans, the increased production of paper bags would result in the elimination of trees adding to the harming of the environment. Even cotton bags advertised to eliminate plastic from the oceans and be better for the environment have their own set of problems: “It takes thousands of gallons of water and a lot of pesticides to produce one pound of cotton–and although those bags will last longer, they will eventually end up in a landfill too” according to an article published on
While all of these factors create a bad reputation for paper and cotton bags, plastic is the only type of bag out of the three which end up in the earth’s oceans and kill sea animals. It may be debated whether trash in a landfill or trash in the ocean is worse but with water making up more than 70% of our earth and land only covering around 30% the conservation of clean water may become more significant.
Humans use and dispose of plastic every day. Every bottle, straw and bag will add to the growing amount of plastic in oceans. While these plastic products may make people’s lives more convenient, they inconvenience over 200 sea animals every day. As a population, efforts towards the eradication of plastic will help to save the earth and its oceans.
“The four R’s: refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle. Refuse plastic bags and straws, reuse all the plastic containers that you can, recycle what you can’t, find other uses for plastics and be an advocate in your community for refusing plastic bags and straws, ” Kost said.