Earth, in recent years, has seen many changes owing to climatic conditions. While most of this is attributed to the global warming caused by various pollutions and greenhouse emissions, one of the most worrying factors has been plastics. While plastics are materials that are not degradable and will continue to exist until the very end of the world, they are also the major cause of pollution in oceans.
Oceans and their importance
Oceans have a crucial role to play in our day to day lives. There is no undermining the impact of oceans in our everyday lives.
- While they are part of our habitat and continue to supply us with seafood, they are also the reason we have fresh air to breathe.
- They can absorb the excess of CO2 in the air, making the atmosphere more pleasant to humans and other living beings.
- They have been a major transportation channel for shipping cargo and for people to travel from one part of the world to another.
- They are a crucial part of the water cycle through which we get fresh rains every year for agriculture, drinking water, and other consumption purposes.
- They are also a place of recreation with many options like kayaking and boating to the list.
And yet, in recent years, the oceans across the world have been subjected to a lot of pollution. The pollution has caused a lot of damage to the marine ecosystem, endangering marine species, and more.
Damage from plastics
Apart from the oils leaked by the ships on the oceans and the air pollution caused by greenhouse gas emissions, the oceans have been struggling more and more combating the amount of plastics in them. Research shows that there are more than 5 trillion pieces of plastics floating around in the oceans across the world. This translates to about 268,000 tons of plastic across the world’s oceans. And this doesn’t even take those very minute pieces of plastic which we have no clue where they are.
The plastics that we consider to be washed ashore are not the only plastics to be thrown into the sea. But rather, smaller particles of plastics into the sea are consumed by marine life, which endangers their life. For instance, the turtles often mistake plastic bags floating in the water for jellyfish and consume them.
- It is not just the marine life that is impacted. The birds that depend on marine life, like the Albatross, which uses the skimmed sea material for its chicks, also are endangered with the plastics in the ocean. There have been many reported cases of young albatrosses dying with plastics in their stomach, unable to regurgitate like the older ones.
- Again what we are looking at here is probably just the tip of the iceberg. There have been samples of plastics found in the zooplankton samples, which shows how far the plastics have infiltrated into the ocean. Birds, whales, and other fishes often mistake these for real planktons and consume them. These nanoparticles of plastic consumed by the birds and fishes often cause danger to them and the bigger predator who consumes them, sometimes even humans.
- The floating plastics can also become a colony for the bacteria and other pathogens to evolve. These could potentially endanger the marine environment and cause a huge impact on human life in the years to come.
- The plastics floating on top of the ocean can also trap the sunlight, which reduces the heat that travels to the depths.
- As with every pollution, ocean pollution already has and will continue to have an everlasting impact on climate change globally.
What is worrying is the fact that while other issues that pollute the ocean, like ocean acidification, have gained importance and limelight, plastic pollution is creeping in silently through the backdoor, going for the kill directly.
Keeping our oceans clean
There have been many nonprofit and government organizations now working towards cleaning up the ocean and to keep the environment intact. It is estimated that the cleaning up of the ocean might take as much as $90 billion, which will take care of the existing trash, waste management, plants for treating wastewater, and management of the same while also finding alternatives to plastic and reducing plastic pollution.
It is in the best interests of the humans and other lives on this planet to regularize and optimize the waste management system and to regulate the water bodies. Plastics are more toxic as they are not degradable, and that is why it is important to find a solution to the root cause. We, as individuals, have the responsibility to keep our environment, which also includes our oceans to remain clean.
Oceans have a vital role to play in our health, living, and our economy. It is the very foundation over which we have built our civilizations. It is time to take it upon ourselves to understand and help clean the ocean water employing the best of the technologies. It is not just enough to clean the ocean but also take measures that would ensure stopping further pollution.