Over the last seven decades, plastic – an incredibly durable petroleum-made synthetic material-infiltrated the market. Because of the benefits of this fossil-manufactured substance, it has permeated every area of our lives and is polluting the ocean in unimaginable ways. To see how plastic wastes affect the ocean, consider that at least 11 million tons of plastic materials enter the ocean annually.

Moreover, consider that plastic waste makes up about 80% of all marine debris from deep-sea sediments to surface waters. According to the UN environment program, this might increase to between 23 and 37 million metric tons by 2040.

In this article, we’ll see how plastic wastes affect the ocean and offer practical solutions to this tricky issue.

How Plastic Wastes Affect the Ocean

If you want to conserve the ocean, learn how plastic affects the ocean. That’s the best way to discover the right methods you need to do the right thing. It affects the ocean in several ways. Please find the major ones below.

Causes Severe Digestive Problems

Research indicates that plastic ingestion kills approximately 100 000 marine mammals and one million seabirds annually. It also approximates that at least 60% of seabird species have ingested plastic waste, which will likely grow to 99% by 2050.

A dead albatross chick found on Midway Atoll in the Pacific Ocean with plastic debris in its stomach
A dead albatross chick found on Midway Atoll in the Pacific Ocean with plastic debris in its stomach

Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

At the same time, according to scientists, at least half of sea turtles have ingested these dangerous wastes. Young sea animals face the greatest risk since they have not learned how to select what to eat.   

While some marine mammals like dolphins are intelligent and, therefore, are unlikely to ingest plastics, they are still at risk in many ways. This threat spreads across the food chain. In other words, marine mammals that depend on flesh can ingest plastic without knowing.

Pollutes the Oceanic Waters

Another way to learn how plastic wastes affect the ocean is to consider its ability to poison the water and cause sea animals and plants to contract dangerous diseases.

A recent study has shown that plastics encourage the growth of dangerous plants in the ocean. Coral reefs that come into contact with them have an 89% chance of contracting deadly diseases. On the other hand, corals that don’t come into contact with plastic wastes have a four-percent probability of contracting infections.

You can see the gap.

However, that’s not all. Some plastic materials contain poisonous substances and can kill any living thing on its way. Bisphenol A is an example of a toxic substance that is available in some plastic containers. When disposed of in the ocean, they pollute the water and cause disaster.

Bisphenol A doesn’t get diluted in water. Besides containing dangerous substances, this stuff uses lots of oxygen when it degrades. So, it reduces the survival rate of sharks and marine mammals, including penguins and whales.

Causes the Invasion of Non-Indigenous Species

Some non-indigenous species consider the millions of plastic materials floating on water suitable habitats. Thus, they interfere with the normal functioning of the ocean ecosystem.

Unhealthy Accumulation of Plastic

Mountains of plastic in some parts of the ocean are a significant threat to the sea. The gyres and other oceanic currents often accumulate plastics, leaving the place unsafe.

 The Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the North Pacific Ocean is an excellent example of such marine debris.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch map
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch map

Credit: Map by NOAA

We’ve seen how plastic wastes affect the ocean in brief and will focus on practical solutions in the next section.

What Can We Do to Break the Plastic Wave?

Use Existing Technology

We can use many existing solutions, but we can’t change the trajectory of plastic waste without investing in technology. Scalable tech solutions can help us reduce plastic entering the ocean by nearly 80% within the next 20 years. An example of such a tech solution that we can consider is The Interceptor Original.

Don’t Use Plastics

The most practical way to get started is by refusing to use plastics. At the very least, avoid single-use plastics.

Support Ocean-Friendly Legislation

Changing our behaviors and adopting technology are essential steps. However, they are inadequate.

We need laws that can do the following:

  • Reduce or eliminate plastic production
  • Improve waste management
  • Make plastic producers accountable  

Recycle Properly

If you have to use some plastics, ensure you recycle them. Currently, only 9% of plastic materials are recycled worldwide. Recycle all single-use plastic products to help keep plastic out of the ocean.

Breaking the Plastic Wave By Being Responsible

Now that we’ve seen how plastic wastes affect the ocean and ways to address this matter, we can agree that plastic pollution threatens ocean health. Fortunately, you can do something about it today and join the millions of people who are already taking action to save the environment.

FAQs

Where does 80% of the plastic in the ocean come from?

Eight percent of the plastic in the ocean comes from the land. By weight, approximately 70% of the waste is transported from land-based sources to the sea through coastlines or rivers. The other 30% comes from marine sources, including ropes, abandoned vessels, lines, and fishing nets. In short, one of the simplest ways to save the ocean is to reduce the amount of plastic transported from land.

How much pollution is in the Pacific Ocean?

Determining how much pollution is in the Pacific Ocean is a great way to know how plastic wastes affect the ocean. The Pacific is the most polluted. It has approximately two trillion plastic pieces. A third of the trash is in the North Pacific Gyre, the ocean’s most extensive system of circular currents that forces Earth to rotate.

How can we solve the plastic problem?

Yes, we can solve the plastic problem, but it requires much work. This issue is tricky and won’t be solved permanently until all nations ban plastics. This is difficult because of international and local politics and the rising demand for single-use plastics. Nevertheless, we can improve the situation by limiting the use of plastics and following the Reduce-Reuse-and-Recycle rule.

Can we recycle ocean plastic?

No, we can’t recycle most ocean plastic. Why? Once plastic materials enter the ocean, salt water and UV light effects degrade them. Before long, it becomes discolored, fragmented, and brittle, which makes it unusable for recycling. For that matter, almost all plastic recovered from the ocean hardly makes it to the recycling plant. Therefore, the only solution is to keep ocean plastic in a warehouse and incinerate it.