Remember that scene in the movie The Graduate, where a young Dustin Hoffman is advised that plastics are the wave of the future? Well fast forward 40 years and we now know that plastics, while convenient, have created a massive trash problem for the world, particularly our oceans.
Take the ubiquitous plastic water bottle. In America alone, we use 37 billion water bottles a year. That’s more 100 single use bottles per man, woman and child, per year. Worse, more than 85% of those plastic bottles are not recycled. Many end up in the sea, where they become part of one of the floating masses of trash that are imperiling our oceans.
The longest studied mass of sea trash is called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which was first discovered in 2009. This garbage patch is estimated to be more than 260,000 square miles, about the size of the great state of Texas, which represents almost 10% of the land mass of the US. Life giving plankton is down by 30% in the areas around the patch, and it contains more than 3.5 million tons of our garbage, floating out there, at sea. This is a mass of trash equivalent to almost 80,000 humpback whales!
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch contains all manner of trash, from plastic water bottles, to kids’ toys that were abandoned on the beach, to toothbrushes which humans carelessly forgot to recycle.
There is no “away” on this one, small blue planet. Please do your part to keep plastic trash out of our oceans by choosing reusable items wherever possible, and by always properly disposing your plastic waste.