November 14, 2013

Ocean Garbage Patch: It’s Bigger than It Looks

Written for SIEL by:
Emi Kondo, 2014

Ocean Garbage Patch: It’s Bigger than It Looks

Last week, members of SIEL had the opportunity to watch Plasticized, a documentary that raised multiple issues with plastic pollution in the ocean. Though we never see the mythical “ocean garbage patch” in the film, members of the 5 Gyres Institute picked up small pieces of plastics in areas hundreds of miles from shore. Because the plastic degrades as it travels, the fact that these environmentalists found any plastic far from shore indicates that the plastic started as a significantly bigger piece when it left shore. If the plastic did not degrade, how much of our ocean would be covered with trash?

The film depicted the ocean cleanup efforts by the members of the 5 Gyre Institute. However, one of the members points out that these cleanup efforts can only alleviate the issue so much. Instead, we need to focus on preventing plastic pollution from entering the water. In addition, because marine species consume the plastics directly by mistaking it as food, or indirectly through dissolved plastics in the water, it may be as important to use biodegradable plastic that breaks down in water rather than in soil.

But what can we do on a daily basis to help? Reducing the amount of plastic used in everyday life is a good start. Bring your own bag to the grocery store. Drink tap water and carry a reusable water bottle instead of drinking out of plastic bottles. These changes may sound trivial; but such effort by many people around the globe can be a huge step towards eliminating the ocean plastic pollution.

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