Oceans cover about 71% of the earth and us humans live in just a bit more than a quarter of the earth covered in the land. Now keeping this in mind, one can have trouble in coming into terms with the fact that we pollute the oceans.
Since oceans are so vast, no amount of pollution could have a tangible effect on it right? Well, this is where we are wrong!
It is a truly shocking fact, and one that sheds light into the damage we have been doing to our oceans.
How plastic kills marine life
Plastic debris kills marine life in two major ways. The fishes or mammals entangle in the plastic fibers, restricting their movement or even the ability to feed or breathe. Secondly, the plastic debris can be ingested by marine life, poisoning their internals and killing them in the process.
More than 100,000 marine mammals and a million seabirds are killed every year from plastic debris and these numbers are the ones that get reported. We can expect the real numbers to be much higher.
Plastic debris makes up only a fraction of marine pollution, the rest of it is contributed by wastewater and industrial waste that further makes the water inhabitable for marine life. It is believed that 90% of wastewater and 70% of industrial wastewater dumped into the oceans by developing countries are not treated prior to their release.
Cruise ships dump more than 1 billion gallons of sewage into the ocean every year.
The dead zones – no oxygen, no life
The pollution caused by the wastewater concentrates the water, depriving it of oxygen. And the other characteristic of the wastewater is that it does not disperse afar the moment they enter the oceans.
Diffusion takes time and dumping more wastewater into that spot without giving existing wastewater enough time to disperse results in the creation of dead zones.
Dead zones are spots in the ocean that doesn’t have any oxygen in the water, making it impossible for life to thrive in it. There are more than 500 dead zones scattered across the open ocean and coastal waters, and the number is found out to double every decade.
Low oxygen in certain spots in the ocean will cause marine life to migrate to a new area, which causes alien intervention and can disrupt the balance of the existing marine in that place.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch – a floating island of plastic
With more than 46,000 pieces of plastic in every one square mile of ocean, the debris is continuously carried over by the waves and the disturbances caused by the wind and rain. But certain places of the globe, they get trapped between currents called gyres.
This significantly reduces their chances of going anywhere else.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is one such gyre that has accumulated an alarming volume of plastic debris. It is estimated that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is as big as 1.6 million square kilometers.
To put that into perspective, it is three times the size of France. It is estimated that there are more than 80,000 tons of plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Why it is high time that we clean up the oceans?
We cannot turn a blind eye to marine pollution anymore. It has become a global crisis that will kill off all the marine life, and then turn to humans to avenge what has been done to oceans of the world.
And we are already seeing the effects of marine pollution on humans. It is estimated that 1 in 3 fish caught for human consumption contains plastic.
Bathing in contaminated ocean water sickens around 1 billion people every year. The damage is worsened in countries where people affected with such sickness do not have access to proper medical care.
Ocean cleanup is the only way we can help both marine life and lives that depend on it from further damages. But it is indeed a humongous task.
We cannot just pick up plastic one by one, because it is going to take forever. Also, as we discussed before, most of these plastics are very small in size.
And, the cost of cleaning up the ocean would make anyone think twice because it would take at least $500 million a year to clean up the ocean and we don’t know how many years it will take.
However, innovative ideas and engineering solutions might offer us another way to give back the planet its pristine waters.
One of their main focus is about researching plastic, trying to figure out if we can find a way to decompose them without causing any pollution. Their latest invention is a system that stretches over the ocean creating a controlled coastline.
The plastic debris is collected within the surface and on a 3-meter-deep skirt.
Unfortunately, the 2000 foot floating device broke due to the hard ocean conditions and the system had been towed backed to the shore. The company has been studying the cause for such a setback and has announced that they will be back in action soon.
There are also other inventions from various organizations and individuals that are aimed at cleaning up the mess we have made.
The Seabin in one such idea that collects debris from the ocean through an orifice and collects it while expelling out clean water from its filtration system. The brains behind this invention are two surfers who made the prototype using a pump and a filtration unit.
The British company, Recycling Technologies, recently announced their success of a new process that could turn plastic into virgin plastic, wax, and oils.
They are further perfecting this method to bring it into commercial applications.
Cleaning up our mess – It isn’t an option, it’s a necessity!
There is no use pouring in resources and time into cleaning up the ocean if we do not stop the source. And that encompasses nations, companies, industries, consumers, etc.
We must strictly take action against the use of plastic and bring in regulations that prevent industries from using the ocean as a garbage pit.
Another way we can contribute is by supporting organizations that are aimed at cleaning up the oceans. Even a little volunteer work goes a long way.
Without proper awareness or action, the oceans of the world will merely become polluted water that cannot sustain life, and this will affect the rivers and lakes which will, in turn, threaten the foundation of human life.
Let’s save our oceans to save our future!