OCEAN PLASTIC: THE PROBLEM
Plastic is everywhere, we can’t escape it, and it is having huge impacts on our planet. In the last 10 years we have produced more plastic than over the course of the whole century. The sheer quantity which we produce each year is almost unfathomable. Well over 300 million tonnes a year. We use 100 billion plastic drink bottles a year; and 500 billion plastic bags a year. That’s over a million bags a minute. Overwhelming numbers, when you think the average plastic bags “working life” is 15 minutes total.
We’re addicted to plastic and it needs to stop.
The Production of Plastic
The vast majority of plastic is made of polypropylene, a material made from petroleum (oil) and gas. These two materials are non-renewable fossil fuel based. Their extraction and production create greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change. The production process itself is inefficient, for example the process of producing bottled water required 6 times as much water per bottle as there is in the actual container and 2,000 times the overall energy required to drink tap water. The total amount of energy required to drive a car for one kilometre or 0.5 miles is the equivalent energy required to produce nine plastic bags.
Plastic Isn’t Biodegradable.
When we throw something in the bin we say we have thrown it “away”. In reality, there is no “away”. This plastic is still somewhere on our planet. In a landfill, in the ocean, on the streets. It still exists. Plastic takes hundred if not thousands of years to biodegrade. And in reality, it most likely won’t ever disappear but instead becomes long-lasting (and toxic) “plastic dust”.
We dump 8 million tonnes of plastic into the ocean each year, a truckload a minute, and there is set to be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050 if not sooner. There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean right now. In huge “trash islands” there are 520,000 pieces of plastic per square mile. Just take a moment to absorb that information.
This ocean plastic is not only damaging the oceans themselves, but the creatures who live there. Over 1,000,000 seabirds are killed by plastic pollution in the oceans each year. As well as 300,000 dolphins and porpoises. Not to mention numerous seals, sharks, whales, turtles, fish and more. Often the plastic clogs these animals stomachs and leads to a slow, painful death through starvation. If that doesn’t pull in your heartstrings, then remember that the plastic “dust” in the oceans is ingested by fish. Which ends up on your plate and inside your body if you consume seafood. Yum.
Plastic pollution is urgently threatening the whole underwater ecosystem. This, combined with climate change, is leading to some seriously worrying damage to the ocean. These changes put our very survival at risk. Over 50% of the oxygen we breathe is produced by the ocean, thats every second breath. Ultimately, if the oceans die, we die.
We can’t write this article without mentioning commercial fishing. Commercial fishing contributes up to 60% of marine plastic waste. It is all well and good reducing our own personal use of plastic, but we need to tackle commercial fishing if we want to see big changes. Sadly, all fish products sold in conventional stores will have contributed to ocean plastic – even if they are certified or labeled as “sustainable”. Not to mention commercial fishing practices in general are hugely damaging to marine habitats and results in the death of turtles, sharks and dolphins through by-catch. One huge way you can fight back on ocean plastic, plastic pollution and destruction of the oceans is by reducing your fish consumption or stopping consuming it completely.
Let’s do this!
Every single person can contribute to positive change by reducing plastic consumption and making simple sustainable swaps to their lifestyle. Don’t be disheartened, lots of small changes add up to a big difference. As a brand, Stay Wild Swim is actively fighting ocean plastic by turning it into beautiful and functional swimwear pieces. We are upcycling otherwise harmful waste into high quality pieces which are designed to last, literally turning threat into thread. We also partake in regular beach cleans and support charities related to the cause.
Join us in the movement to fight ocean plastics and protect our beautiful home.
If you want to read more about this issue check out our founder Zanna’s article on the subject and read our 10 sustainable swaps you can make today article.
Zanna & Nat x