As World Ocean Day approaches, let’s reflect on how our daily choices impact the oceans. Ordinary everyday objects like plastic shopping bags or single-use packaging have widespread environmental effects, with millions of tons continuously ending up in our oceans. This pollution harms marine life and disrupts ecosystems, releasing harmful chemicals into the water. Our oceans regulate the climate and provide food and livelihoods, making it essential to protect them for our own and future generations. Keep reading to learn about the harmful effects of plastics and how you can make a difference.

1. Rise of Single-Use Plastics:

Single-use plastics, including bottles, bags, and straws, have become emblematic of modern convenience culture. Globally, over 350 million tons of plastic are produced each year, with approximately 10 million tons ending up in the ocean (1). These plastics are designed for short-term use but persist for centuries, polluting marine ecosystems and endangering marine life.

2. The Journey of Plastic Pollution:

Plastic pollution begins on land, where littering, improper disposal and inadequate waste management allow plastics to enter waterways. Once in the ocean, plastics are carried by currents, accumulating in massive garbage patches and washing ashore on even the most remote beaches. Marine animals mistake plastics for food or become entangled in them, leading to injury, starvation, and death (2).

3. Effects on Marine Life:

Sea turtles often ingest plastic bags, mistaking them for jellyfish, a staple in their diet. Seabirds ingest plastic particles, leading to digestive issues, malnutrition, and reduced reproductive success (3). Even the gentle giants of the sea, marine mammals like whales and dolphins, are frequently ensnared in plastic debris. In turn, many perish by drowning or suffer life-threatening injuries from the waste that they encounter. (4)

4. Microplastic Contamination:

Over time, single-use plastics break down into smaller fragments known as microplastics, which pervade the marine environment. A wide range of marine species, including fish, shellfish, and crustaceans ingest microplastics, making them present throughout the food chain (5). As a result, seafood consumed by humans may contain harmful levels of microplastics, posing health risks. Although these plastics are invisible to the naked eye, they are everywhere and have the bad habit of accumulating over time (6). Microplastic pollution has been detected in human blood for the first time, with scientists finding particles in almost 80% of the people tested, raising concerns about their potential impact on health as they travel through the body and lodge in organs (7).

Small Actions, Big Difference :

To reduce plastic pollution and its impact on the oceans, consider making these plastic-free swaps:

Stainless steel or glass water bottles: Avoid single-use plastic bottles by using refillable ones.

Beeswax wraps: Use these instead of plastic wrap for food storage.

Cloth produce bags: Opt for reusable bags when buying fruits and vegetables.

Silicone food storage bags or glass containers: Use these as an alternative to disposable plastic zip bags.

Reusable straws: Choose metal, glass, or bamboo straws over plastic ones.

Recycled packaging: Shop consciously at the supermarket and online, opt for foods in recycled paper packaging like egg cartons, and choose brands that are actively reducing their plastic packaging in online shipping.

By incorporating these changes into your daily life, you can significantly reduce your plastic footprint and contribute to a healthier ocean.

As we confront the challenges posed by plastic pollution, it’s essential to take action at both individual and collective levels. Fortunately, the tides are turning to address this issue on a global scale. Initiatives such as beach clean-ups, plastic waste reduction campaigns, and innovative recycling technologies are gaining momentum. By joining these efforts and advocating for sustainable practices, we can make a meaningful difference. Together, we can reduce our reliance on single-use plastics, support initiatives aimed at curbing plastic pollution, and safeguard the health of our planet’s beautiful, blue oceans. This Ocean Day, let’s work together to ensure a brighter, cleaner future for generations to come. Visit World Ocean Day to learn more and take further action in protecting our oceans.

And to celebrate Ocean Day sustainably, try out our Ocean Day-themed egg carton craft. Download the instructions for a plastic-free craft here.

Thanks for reading our blog post! To learn more about plastic pollution and the impact is has on our environment and the food chain, check out the links below!