A recent viral video of a diver swimming through a sea of plastic is a stark reminder of what we are doing to the world’s oceans. We’ve been reporting on this issue since 2012, watching the development of a massive gyre of plastic forming in the Pacific Ocean, devastating wildlife in the Midway Atolls.
“About 300 million tons of plastic are produced each year. In the US alone, about 30+ million tons of plastic waste is dumped into the solid waste system, including various plastic containers, bags and other types of packaging, with only about 10% being recycled.” [Source]
Sadly the overuse of plastic has only continued, and while a few grassroots and localized efforts have inspired a small handful of retailers to experiment with a retail model that does not use plastic packaging, projections indicate that the problem is very quickly getting much worse.
In a recent report by the UK Government Office for Science entitled Future of the Sea, a grim scenario is painted with regards to ocean pollution by plastics. Noting key long-term trends, the report states:
Plastic in the ocean is projected to treble between 2015 and 2025. Plastic does not decompose, instead breaking down into ever smaller pieces. The full effects are not understood, but there is growing evidence of plastic harming sea creatures and restricting their movement,10 as well as polluting beaches. [Source]
The report states that total plastic in the oceans will increase from 50 million metric tons in 2015 to 150 million metric tons by 2025, and since there is little to no political action or orchestrated effort to reduce the usage and dependency on plastics, this number will continue to climb from there.
Remarking on the negative effects of plastic pollution in the ocean, the Future of the Sea Reports states:
“There is extensive evidence that entanglement in, or ingestion of, plastics can cause injury and death to a wide range of marine organisms, including commercially important fish and shellfish… Plastic does not decompose, instead breaking down into ever smaller pieces… The full effects are not understood, but there is growing evidence of plastic harming sea creatures and restricting their movement, as well as polluting beaches.” [Source]
As people the world over are discovering, this is a global problem that we can no longer hide from or pretend not to see. Where once rumors of plastic islands in the Pacific were concerning, this problem is now reaching shores the world over, and if nothing is done to muster public support for a change, the world’s oceans will collapse.