How much plastic is in the ocean — and what you can do about it

In an age when pollution and global warming have become perennial hot topics, arguably one of the most dangerous contributors to the world’s pollution problem is single-use plastics.

Plastics, unlike other forms of environmental waste, do not decompose. That means every piece of plastic that has been manufactured in history is still present in our environment in one form or another.

So, where does it all go?

While some plastics can be (and are) recycled, much of the world’s plastic finds its home in landfills. Another location for plastic pollution is the world’s oceans.

While determining the exact amount of plastic waste in our oceans is difficult, a study published by Science.org estimated that 275 metric tons of plastic entered the world’s oceans in 2010, and without proper waste management infrastructure improvements, that amount could be exponentially higher by 2025.

What are the effects of plastic in the ocean?

When plastic is swept out to sea, it doesn’t just mindlessly bob in the water but catches a ride on the nearest current.

Depending on the exact location, these currents take plastic to one of many trash vortices across the world’s oceans, like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — an area of plastic in the Pacific Ocean that is roughly twice the size of Texas.

These garbage patches aren’t simply eyesores, but directly threaten marine and human life.

Marine wildlife often mistake plastic waste for prey and die of starvation because their stomachs are filled with trash instead of usable nutrients. They can also suffer from injuries such as cuts, infections and other mishaps that directly inhibit their ability to feed and swim.

For humans, microplastics have started to contaminate the food we eat and the liquid we drink. Carcinogenic chemicals are often used in the production of plastic, and consuming too much of these can result in neurological, reproductive and developmental disorders.

3 things you can do to help

With the rise in awareness of the world’s plastic conundrum comes a variety of different ways people can help to reduce plastic waste and pollution in landfills and oceans across the world.

Reduce personal plastic use

It starts at home. One of the best things people can do to reduce the plastic that is choking our oceans is to minimize their own plastic use. Instead of buying bottled water, get a filter for your own faucet and drink from a reusable mug. Using alternatives to single-use plastic, like bamboo or wood toothbrushes, mesh or cloth grocery bags and laundry/dishwasher powder are all fantastic alternatives to plastic products that people can use in their daily lives.

Choosing tablet-based cleaners with reusable glass spray bottles like the ones we specialize in at Nature Lake is a great way to keep the house clean while eliminating plastic use. It’s easy! Just fill the glass bottle with warm water, add cleaning tablets, let them dissolve and then get to cleaning. Together, we can make disposable plastic cleaning bottles a thing of the past.

Participate in a cleanup

Whether you are near a large body of water or not, there are a variety of organizations that accept volunteers (and have paid positions!) to help rid the environment of plastic and other waste.

The Ocean Cleanup, for example, is an organization that seeks to clean up 90% of the world’s floating plastic pollution. This nonprofit and many like it offer opportunities for individuals to participate in cleanup efforts to make their community and the world a better and less polluted place.

Donate!

If you would like to make a difference but are short on time to volunteer, nonprofit cleanup organizations happily accept donations for their efforts.

These much-needed funds help organizations reach their goals by giving them access to new equipment, assist in funding peer-reviewed scientific studies that highlight the determinants of plastic pollution, and can help support a full-time staff who are dedicated to their environmental goals.

Make a difference today

At Nature Lake, we are committed to making our environment a safer and cleaner place.

Take a look at our selection of plastic-free cleaning supplies to help make your home more sustainable, healthy and plastic-free. Do you have any favorite single-use plastic substitutes? How about any cleaning or personal care products you’re eager to find an earth-friendly substitute for? We’d love to hear from you! We’re always looking for ways to expand our product line and improve the range of sustainable choices available to our customers.

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