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16 April 2012
How Plastic Pollution is Out of Control
Many individuals underestimate the amount of plastic we use each day. According to the article “Plastic Bags Wars”, “the world consumes 1 million plastic shopping bags every minute”. Plastic bags, along with many other types of plastics, have become a leading source of pollution worldwide (Doucette). Captain Charles Moore, founder of the Algalita foundation states that we use two million plastic bottles in the United States every five minutes. Discovered by Charles Moore in 1997, the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” is a prime example of the amount of plastic pollution that enters the ocean from land. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been described as a filthy plastic collage of discarded cups, straws, lids, bags, and food container’s. These giant patches of plastic debris have also been identified as the nation’s most significant marine debris problem (Murphy). This enormous amount of plastic pollution on our beaches and in our oceans is harming humans and marine life; therefore, to stop this global issue, we must prevent plastics from entering our oceans.
The Center for Marine Conservation, an environmental group based in Washington, states that the number one source of debris on beaches from Santa Monica Hinton 2
to Miami is plastic trash (Murphy). In the past, ships out at sea have been the main cause of plastics in the ocean, dumping 14 billion pounds of garbage into the ocean every year (Amaral). Before the use of plastic, trash dumped overboard consisted of natural materials that would sink to the bottom biodegrade quickly (Amaral). Today, Plastic that is thrown into the sea floats on the surface and can remain so for 400 years (Amaral). Although there is now a law making it illegal to dump plastics into the ocean, it is difficult to enforce and ensure that ships are not polluting our oceans. How does trash make it’s way into the ocean? In “Better Planet Garbage Patch”, Kositgen points out that the reason for trash entering the ocean is pretty straightforward. He explains, for example, that “when a cup gets blown off the beach in, say, San Francisco, it gets caught in the California Current which makes it way down the coast toward Central America”(Kostigen). Just one piece of trash that enters the ocean is taken around the world by the various currents in the ocean. According to “Beaches Drowning in Plastic Pollution”, a study was conducted to analyze the amount of trash collected on beaches across America. In Los Angeles County, nearly 68% of debris collected for the survey was some form of plastic (Murphy). A total of more than three million pieces of debris were recorded, just a small portion of the amount of trash thrown on our beaches. Local official’s in Santa Monica state that most of the plastic collected in the survey was the result of beach visitors tossing aside their trash. During the summer months at Santa Monica Beach, maintenance crews collected twelve tons of garbage on the weekends. According to Kostigen, “the UNEP reports that today 80 percent of all marine debris that
washes ashore – such as trash and toxic matter – originally comes from shore-based activities”(Kostigen). A large portion of plastic pollution, however, is flushed into the ocean from storm drains, rivers, and creeks. According to Murphy, “during heavy rainstorms, the drains and waterways act as huge siphons, dumping the debris directly in the ocean” (Murphy). It is obvious that we cannot control the weather but what we can control is our actions. Instead of tossing aside our trash onto the beach, we must dispose of the trash properly. Murphy reports that members of the marine conservation center conclude “that the general public poses a major threat to beaches and marine life”(Murphy). Although we cannot collect every existing piece of plastic in the...
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