By Jonathan Reed
Video supplied by BBC©
Our oceans cover 71% percent of the Earth’s surface, and account for 99% of the living space on our planet. It was here, in the oceans that life began some 3.1 billion to 3.4 billion years ago. They are integral to human survival as 70% of the oxygen we breathe is produced by them. These accumulations of facts and figures are intriguing and demonstrate the dominant presence of our oceans, but sadly they're statistics and percentages that tell a very different story, one that only we humans can solve. One such fact, there are more artefacts and remnants of human history in the ocean than in all the world’s museums combined! One such remnant is plastic and it’s proving a damaging force for our natural oceanic world.
Around 8 million metric tones of plastic are discarded into the ocean annually. 236,000 tons are microplastics, these are pieces of broken-down plastic that are smaller than your little fingernail. These pieces of plastic form together to create huge concentrations or ‘islands’ of debris that are covering large areas of the ocean. One such ‘island’ floats between California and Hawaii and is the size of the state of Texas! Frighteningly, plastic isn’t just plaguing our ocean surfaces, it has been found as far as 11km deep, meaning synthetic fibres are contaminating the most remote places on Earth.
The most concerning statistic rests with our ocean’s futures as every minute one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into the sea, which experts believe will lead to a tenfold increase by 2020. By 2050 many believe that there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish, at least by weight.
So how have we come to this? What is the cause of such amounts of plastic being dumped into our precious seas? The answer rests with us. A lack of education and awareness for the importance of the ocean has led to loss of understanding on how deeply we rely on it. Poorly managed or resourced landfill sites, sewage treatment and overflows, the overuse and overcrowding of public beaches and street litter blowing into waterways, are just a handful of the causes that end with plastic polluting our oceans. Although, we may have caused this, we can also be the solution.
Campaigns and charities to clean our ocean have been actively working for decades, but sadly haven’t received major attention. That has all changed as major companies join the big clean-up, but one event truly highlighted the impact of plastic pollution. BBC’s Blue Planet 2 aired heart-breaking footage of a Pilot Whale carrying her dead calf after potentially feeding from her contaminated milk from plastic pollution. The devastating footage had viewers in tears and resulted in a 100% increase in searches regarding plastics in our oceans. The societal impact of the series was far-reaching and even became a political talking point, resulting in a change in British government environmental policy.
BBC’s Blue Planet 2 has pushed other campaigns into the spotlight. Sky have their own, Ocean Rescue, as do Greenpeace, WWF and so many more. Local communities have begun their own clean-up initiatives like 4Ocean, who are selling bracelets which you can purchase. (The link to buy one yourself is at the bottom of the page). For every bracelet bought, it helps to the removal of 1 pound of trash being removed from our oceans and coastlines. Parley TV are helping with the fight, allowing creators and leaders to come together to raise awareness into protecting the seas.
In fact, a simple internet search reveals hundreds of initiatives that are willing to help and they’re popularity is increasing immensely. It is wonderful to see, but there is so much more to do.
Our oceans are many things to many people. From beautiful photographic seascapes, to the home of marine life, they offer so much to so many. Though if we carry on with the abusive nature of discarding plastics into our waters, then we will most certainly lose that. We must ensure that we all do our bit, whether its purchasing a bracelet like we did, joining a campaign or even when walking the coastline, picking up pieces of trash along the way, it all helps towards cleaning our oceans. Our planet deserves so much better, our marine life does to and so do we. Humankind won’t be around forever, but our oceans will and whilst we share this planet, let’s work to protecting it so that all of us together can enjoy the oceans for centuries to come.