The overuse of plastics in today's society has become major environmental issue for our oceans. Plastic pollution is the dumping, littering, or disposing of any type of man-made plastic that has been produced and has ended up in our ocean and has not been recycled.
History of Plastic
"Plastic" entered the world through chemistry in 1909 and was originally coined to describe Bakelite, the first fully synthetic resin. What make's plastic so unique is when it is heated it can be molded but it retained its shape when cooled (Reddy, 2010). The modern plastic bag was not possible until the accidental discovery of the first industrially practical method of polyethylene synthesis in 1933. Fast forward to today, the use and manufacturing of polyethylene have seen rapid growth and has come from four percent of the world's petroleum(Sang, 2011). It's been less than 30 years since the introduction of the plastic grocery bag but experts estimate that our current use of plastic bags is 500 million to 1 trillion per year.
Problem With Plastic
Plastic, which we now know is a by-product of petroleum production has been in use for over 100 years and has no real end in sight. The plastic we produce has four key characteristics that make -up there identity:
Sang, Anita. "Plastic Bags And Environmental Pollution." 63.3 (2010): 39-43. 28 Mar 2012.
• Geometry. The shape of the debris is important from the point of view of entanglement. Products such as six-pack rings and netting represent more of a potential hazard than an equivalent mass of the same polymer in the form of a laminate. (Takada, 2011) • Durability. The likelihood of encounter between a given item of marine debris and a marine animal depends upon the life time of the material. The duration available for the encounter is crucial in determining the potential hazard posed by the plastic material. Unfortunately, little information is available on the lifetime of plastics at sea. Lack of this information is a definite setback in the assessment of potential hazards posed by plastic waste. (Takada, 2011) • Strength. The strength of the debris material determines the likelihood that an entangled animal can escape. Alternatively, the possible obstruction of the gut in case of ingestion is less likely if the material is weak enough to mechanically fail during the ingestion process. (Takada, 2011) • Toxicity. Plastics, being undigestible macromolecules, cannot be absorbed through the digestive track. So technically there are not toxic materials, but the plastics used in the fabrication of products may contain chemical additives which can be absorbed, and be extremely harmful. (Takada, 2011)
Takada, Henry. "Diffuse Pollution By Persistent Organic Pollutants As Measured in Plastic Pellets Sampled From Various Beaches in Greece." Marine Pollution Bulletin 62.2 (2011): 312317.
The purpose of this paper is to educate, and provide awareness that plastic's in our ocean is serious marine environmental threat. This threat is beyond the marine animals, and is becoming a major health issue because of the amount of food we rely on from the ocean.
Picture above from: www.5gyre.com
Though the seas cover the majority of our planet’s surface, far less is known about the biodiversity of marine environments then that of the land based habits on all continents. The re is over whelming evidence that plastic pollution is a threat to marine biodiversity, already at risk from over fishing, climate change and other forms of anthropogenic disturbance(Dycke, 2010). Due to the long life of plastics on marine ecosystems, it is imperative that severe measures are taken to address the problem at both international and national levels, since even if the production and disposal of plastics suddenly stopped,the existing debris would continue to harm marine life for many decades. When plastic objects make it into the main sewer system and the water treatment...