It seems like it is popping up everywhere these days. There are more and more news stories about it. It's in the parking lot, at the beach, in the noses of sea turtles, the stomachs of whales, and the deepest parts of the ocean. Of course, we are talking about "single-use" plastic.
To piggyback on our last blog post, when Collins Dictionary named "single-use" the 2018 Word of the Year, joining past winners like "fake news," "Brexit," and "binge-watch," then you know there is a global conversation going on around it. This designation could either be a bad thing, a good thing or maybe a little bit of both.
It is a bad thing because there is actually a word for it and there are over 16 billion pounds of plastic entering the ocean each year which is having a devastating impact on wildlife and the overall health of the ocean. Countless fish, marine mammals, seabirds and people are affected by this man-made onslaught every day.
It is a good thing because there is finally a growing conversation around "single-use" plastics and particularly ocean plastics, that is circumnavigating the globe. Governments, companies, environmental groups, and ordinary citizens are realizing that our current model of sustainability and recycling really is not that sustainable at all. We must do a better job collectively of stemming the tide of plastic before it enters the ocean in the first place.
To showcase some of the wide variety of impacts these "single-use" plastics had in 2018, here are some of the notable stories that made the headlines.
When the gold standard in investigative journalism runs with a story, it is clear that there is a problem or issue that needs to be discussed. Just recently, 60 Minutes did a piece on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and you'll be surprised to learn that what you may have thought about it, is probably all wrong.
Photo: 60 Minutes
British scientists studied turtles from the far reaches of the globe, and every single sea turtle they studied had microplastics in their stomachs. This is a disturbing fact because sea turtles are incredible oceanic travelers, crossing oceans to feed and to give birth, showing that these plastics are not a local problem.
Photo: Kwangmooza/Getty Images
We know more about the moon that we do about the deep ocean. One thing we do know now, however, is that our single-use mentality has reached the bottom of the abyss. A plastic bag was found in the Marianas Trench, the deepest part of the ocean, and a liter of water from this depth has thousands of pieces of microplastics in it.
Photo: National Geographic
A 31-foot sperm whale washed up dead on the coast of Indonesia, the necropsy revealed that it had consumed over 13 pounds of plastic and trash including plastic bags and flip-flops. While we can not be sure this was the cause of death, it certainly is a tragic story that undoubtedly is playing out in countless other animals around the world right now.
Photo: National Geographic
In looking forward to what can be done to stop the single-use invasion of Europe, the EU voted to ban this type of plastic by 2021. While this may seem like a tough task because that deadline is only three years away, it is going to take bold action like this from the most powerful countries in the world to help save the ocean from the unsustainable path it is currently on.
With the New Year fast approaching, it's time we all cooperatively think about how much "single-use" was a part of 2018 and how we can all pitch in a little more so that some of the headlines from 2018 don't repeat themselves in 2019. You can do your part today by purchasing a 4ocean bracelet to pull a pound of trash from the ocean and coastlines as well as thinking about the way you consume on a daily basis. It's up to all of us to identify where we can do better and then act on that to create a more sustainable future for the ocean.
The ocean plastic crisis may seem like a relatively recent phenomenon with how much attention it's received over the last decade. However, this situation extends decades beyond modern-day — and the inception of plastic itself stretches even further. Understanding the history of ocean plastic pollution gives us a glimpse into how this material became so pervasive and how we might learn from past behaviors.