Plastic in the ocean
Plastic ending up in the ocean has become a serious problem, with 8 million metric tonnes of plastic on average entering the oceans each year. Predictions estimate that this number will double in the next 10 years, which is a serious concern for both marine life, human health and global warming.
So, where does this plastic come from? There are the obvious choices, such as from waste intended for recycling that actually ends up in the sea and litter that is dropped on the street that is swept into rivers and eventually into the big blue. However, there are also more insidious ways; such as the shower gels and shampoo that we use, as well as the micro-plastics that shed in the washing machine from the synthetic fibres our clothes are made from.
Because of this, people are coming up with ingenious solutions to try and solve the plastic crisis infecting our oceans.
For example, there is a non-profit organisation called The Ocean Cleanup who are aiming to clean up and collect 90% of ocean plastic pollution. They are using satellite imaging to track and trace ‘trash vortexes’. They have invented a special self-capturing plastic net that rounds up rubbish using an innovative system of buoys and nets. As well as this, they have implemented a scalable solution of river boats in order to intercept 80% of the plastic in rivers in the next 5 years, before it reaches the ocean.
There are also a number of campaigns that are encouraging people to reduce their plastic consumption. Most notably, a campaign launched by UNEP with the hashtag #BeatPlastic Pollution. It is encouraging people to give up single use plastics and look towards more sustainable ways to live their lives, whether that be using a shampoo bar instead of a plastic bottle or going to a re-fill shop with refillable jars to buy products like rice, pasta and beans.
Finally, there are exciting developments that are helping to beat the problem of micro-plastics in the ocean. A brand called Guppy Friend has developed a bag which you put your clothes in to wash them, throw it in the washing machine and it catches the plastic fibres that are shed. Similarly, there is an invention called Cora Ball which you just put in the washing machine and it catches around 30% of the micro-fibres that are shed. Although there is still the problem of what to do with these caught micro-plastics, it is great that these fibres are not entering into our water systems.
As you can see, there is a lot of work that needs to be done in order to combat this problem. But, with big brands finally taking notice, as well as individual actions to reduce plastic consumption coming to the forefront of the world’s consciousness, hopefully a tangible difference can and will be made.