The Earth’s oceans are home to a countless number of different organisms, but now they have a new neighbor that is causing them harm. Plastic. Humans depend on plastic for many different items and conveniences. Plastic takes many different shapes and forms such as bags, bottles, and even kitchen utensils. Humans now are so used to convenience and accessibility that they just discard things with ease, as is the case with plastic. Plastic finds its way to the ocean quite easily because it is usually light and can be picked up easily by the wind or can be carried there through a storm drain or even a river. Plastic pollution in the oceans needs human intervention immediately because it is killing a variety of different marine organisms, destroying the oceans many ecosystems, and is having negative health effects on humans.
In the article Our Oceans Are Turning Into Plastic…Are You?, written by Susan Casey, who is also the author of two books about marine organisms and the editor-in-chief of the Oprah Magazine, she talks about how plastic in the oceans is affecting aquatic food chains and is taking away the natural beauty of the world. Casey gives an in-depth look at the plastic filled gyre that is twice the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean and details how it is impacting the ecosystems surrounding it. The gyre is filled with plastic bags, fishing net, traffic cones, and many other useless things that people no longer need. The plastic is killing organisms living around the area because they can get trapped in the endless plastic labyrinth or can even mistake a piece of plastic as a yummy fish egg that they can easily eat. The author also points out that plastic is not only killing marine organisms, but humans too. Plastic cannot biodegrade, so it will always linger in the environment. Humans are breathing in these small toxic plastics that are slowly making them sick. Casey is arguing that something should be done about the Earth’s plastic oceans before more negative consequences happen.
To go against Susan Casey’s opinion, Nina Rastogi, whose work has been published in the Washington Post and the International Herald Tribune and currently works as senior community manager and strategist at Amazon, stated in her article Should We Bother Cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that we should not take action yet because we do not know enough about the problem. She describes the plastic garbage patch as a “soupy area of litter” where most of the plastic is little flecks that fill up the large patch. Rastogi says that cleaning up all the plastic in the ocean would be very expensive and risk even killing marine life near the debris because some of the organisms are about the size of the tiny plastic bits. Rastogi believes that there are not enough answers to the questions surrounding plastic in our oceans and believe we should just stop letting garbage enter the oceans in general.
Jose G.B Derriak, a professor at the University of Auckland and the author of The Pollution of the Marine Environment by Plastic Debris: a Review, gives facts about the large amount of plastic pollution in the oceans. Derriak gives strong evidence from scientists on how plastic is impacting marine life and how it is getting there. He focuses mainly on the threat that plastic has on marine life and recommends that we focus on more research about marine organisms because scientists do not know much about them as they do terrestrial organisms. Derriak believes that more research about the subject will let arise stronger movements to help put a stop to the amounts of plastic entering the oceans even though that will do nothing to help get rid of the large plastic presence already there.
Daniel Cressey has worked with Nature since 2007 and has degrees in chemistry, journalism, and the history of science. In his article Bottles, Bags, Ropes and Toothbrushes: the Struggle to Track Ocean Plastics, Cressey talks about how scientists have estimates of how much plastic is in the ocean, but do not know where exactly all of it is. The author states that scientists do not know a lot about the problem, but that they do know that they should not wait for more evidence to pop up to take action.
In the article Plastics in the Ocean Affecting Human Health, written by Gianna Andrews for a case study for Montana State University, but was featured on Carleton College’s Science Education Resource Center, Andrews explains how plastic is getting inside humans. This is due to human’s actively eating fish or other aquatic organisms and plastic pollution getting into the air one breathes in. The author also says that humans can play a direct link into halting plastic pollution by limiting the amount of use or not using it at all.
The authors of these articles all agree that plastic in our oceans is bad for marine life and humans. They do have differing opinions though on what should be done. Susan Casey, Gianna Andrews, and Daniel Cressey believe that humans should take action and not sit back and let the problem get worse. Jose G.B Derriak and Nina Rastogi believe that humans should wait and do more research on the effects of plastic on aquatic organisms before we intervene.
The marine organism’s death toll is going to continue to rise as long as plastic stays in the oceans. Plastic can take many different shapes and forms. Even in its smallest form it can be mistaken for fish food and eaten by the smaller organisms of the sea. In the pacific ocean alone, “more than a million seabirds, 100,000 marine mammals, and countless fish die…each year, either from mistakenly eating this junk or from being ensnared in it and drowning” (Casey). To some animals, like the fur seals who are playful and energetic, plastic can seem like a toy to them so they can be, “…attracted to the floating debris and dive and roll about in it. They will approach objects in the water and often poke their heads into loops and holes. Though the plastic loops can easily slip onto their necks, the lie of the long guard hairs prevents the strapping from slipping off” (Derriak). Animals cannot avoid plastic in the ocean any longer. It is now a part of their lives.
Plastic is killing a large amount of marine life, but is also destroying their ecosystems that they call home. The amount of plastic produced every year is growing and, “…is now up to around 300 million tons – and much of it eventually ends up in the ocean” (Cressey). Scientists have yet to pinpoint an exact amount of plastic in the ocean and probably never will. We have yet to find out how much is in the way depths of the ocean and the affects it has on the marine ecosystems there. Scientists also do not know, “how long it will take for plastic to biodegrade, or return to its carbon and hydrogen elements” (Casey). Plastic will always linger in the environment and wildlife now has to adapt to it. If humans continue to use plastic at an alarming rate, the world will no longer look the same.
Marine life is not the only one being harmed by plastic pollution, but also humans. Many people think that only plastic affects the animals living or depending on the ocean. That is not true. Humans are also affected by plastic. Plastics are filled with many harmful chemicals like Bisphenol-A (BPA) in it which it can, “…enter the human body in many ways from drinking contaminated water to eating a fish that is exposed to the broken toxins” (Andrews). BPA is extremely harmful to humans and can interfere with human hormonal function. Synthetic estrogens, “…even in low doses, can cause irreversible damage in an unborn baby’s reproductive organs” (Casey). Plastic has become a killer to both animals and humans.
All though most scientists and people believe that human intervention needs to happen immediately to stop plastic pollution, some people disagree. Nina Rastogi says that, “because the trash is so dispersed, it’s not like we can just steer a big ship out to the sea and pick up the Garbage Patch. Collecting all those small fragments of plastic would be extremely expensive” (Rastogi). Any big project or idea such as cleaning up our plastic oceans would be expensive, but the benefits from it would be more beneficial. At the rate humans use plastic, it will not be long until the whole ocean is covered, so any effort helps. She also believes that humans should, “know a lot more about the Garbage Patch – and ocean trash in general – before making a decision as to whether large-scale cleanup operation are viable or even warranted” (Rastogi). Scientists do know enough that the problem will only worsen as time goes on so we should act right away. Scientists can continue to do research while the oceans are being cleaned up.
Plastic ocean pollution has become a big problem for the world. Plastic is something that cannot biodegrade so it will loiter in the environment forever. Plastic is killing millions of marine life every year and the death toll will continue to rise. Plastic has a high body count that includes birds, fish, seals, whales, turtles, and even the oceans top predator the sharks. As more plastic is added to the ocean, the more ecosystems it destroys. One cannot go to the beach anymore without seeing a plastic product laying around. As plastic destroys the worlds beauty, it is also imposing negative health effects on humans. Plastic is made up of a ton of toxic chemicals that can easily enter a human’s body. There is no avoiding plastic anymore. It is a part of us.
Andrews, Gianna. "Plastics in the Ocean Affecting Human Health." Case Studies. The Geological Society of America, n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2016. .
Casey, Susan. “Plastic Ocean.” Best Life Magazine 20 Feb. 2007. Print. Reproduced with permission of Rodale via Copyright Clearance Center.
Cressey, Daniel. "Bottles, Bags, Ropes and Toothbrushes: The Struggle to Track Ocean Plastics." Nature.com. Nature Publishing Group, 17 Aug. 2016. Web. 23 Nov. 2016.
Derriak, Jose G.B. "The Pollution of the Marine Environment by Plastic Debris: A Review." The Pollution of the Marine Environment by Plastic Debris: A Review. RELX Group, 28 Aug. 2002. Web. 29 Nov. 2016. .
Rastogi, Nina. "Should We Bother Cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?" Slate Magazine. The Slate Group, 09 Feb. 2010. Web. 23 Nov. 2016. .