The ocean plastic problem
According to a UK marine plastics report 12 million tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans every year (Eunomia, 2016). 9.5 million tonnes of which enters the ocean from land. And another 1.75 tonnes being discarded at sea by fishing and shipping industries.
Ocean plastic which is a massive problem for marine species and humans alike. Marine species ingest or are tangled in plastic debris leading to severe injuries or worse. It’s killing marine life and threatening eco-systems.
But it’s also now harming humans. Plastic pollution threatens food safety and quality, our health, coastal tourism, and contributes to climate change. It’s now estimated that 1 in every 3 fish caught for human consumption contains plastic.
It’s estimated that, without drastic action, the amount of plastic trash flowing into the seas will triple by 2040. And, if we can't curb the flow, it is predicted that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.
The good news is that each and every one of us can make a difference in the fight against ocean plastic. We’ve taken action by making our new range of bin liners from ocean-bound plastic collected from Indonesian coastal communities.
Indonesia is currently ranked as the one of the world’s worst marine plastic polluters and has limited official waste management. We’ve recycled ocean-bound plastic (post-consumer trash), which has been collected from up to 50km of the shoreline in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city.
That sounds like a big area but it allows for collection along waterways and river banks that lead to the ocean - because 80% of plastic in the ocean was swept out to sea from the land.
As a society we’re now using more plastic than ever before. It’s strong, flexible and durable. But those same qualities that make it really useful also make mean it never really breaks down. A plastic bottle can last for 450 years in the marine environment. It will slowly fragment into smaller and smaller pieces but never truly disappear.
The majority of ocean plastic is microscopic. So even if a government, industry or group of corporates was prepared to commit massive resources to cleaning the ocean, it wouldn’t be possible. Only 1% of ocean plastic can be found floating in the water. 94% is already littering the ocean floor.
Experts believe it would take 67 ships a year to clean up less than 1% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. That infamous patch of plastic debris is now estimated to be twice the size of France. Charles Moore, the oceanographer who discovered it, predicts that it will double in size over the next ten years if we don’t change our ways.
Us humans have created a big problem. Now it’s time to set about rectifying what we can, with each of us playing our own little part to fix it. Be part of the movement towards a greener future by minimising your plastic dependence, refusing single-use plastic, picking up trash wherever you see it, and supporting the various organisations committed to enabling change.
Visit the Science Learning Hub to learn more about plastic pollution here in Aotearoa: sciencelearn.org.nz/resources/3063-rethinking-plastics-in-aotearoa-new-zealand-the-report
Visit the Ministry for the Environment to see what’s being done locally to combat this issue: environment.govt.nz/news/supporting-global-action-to-combat-marine-plastic-pollution/
If you’re looking to volunteer, check out the Plastic Free NZ initiative: osof.org/index.php/portfolio/plastic-free-new-zealand/