The world is turning into a giant garbage can, no doubt, and it’s getting worse. Scientists surveyed the islands of Cocos (in the Australian territory) and estimated there’s about 414 million pieces of plastic which could weigh up to 262 tons. Among the garbage was almost one million shoes and hundreds of thousands of toothbrushes. Straws and plastic bags made up a quarter of the total. Another study noted that there were more pieces of plastic in the ocean than stars in the Milky Way.
The scale of the problem is getting so bad that it seems almost impossible to clean up the beaches. It’s time consuming, costly, and thousands of new pieces of plastic wash up even after you’ve just cleaned it. The solution now is to reduce the distribution and consumption of plastic so that it doesn’t enter our oceans in the first place. I applaud the cities in Minnesota that are banning Styrofoam containers and eliminating plastic straws. We need people to be aware that we can’t stop pollution from happening, but we can certainly slow it down.
Effects on animals
Another issue in itself is how all this garbage affects wildlife. A pregnant sperm whale washed up, dead, on an Italian beach. When scientists and veterinarians cut her open, they found a dead baby whale along with 50 pounds of plastic in her stomach. The plastic filled up more than two thirds of her stomach and potentially died because the nutrients from the food never made it past the blocked intestines.
Deepest point of the ocean
If for some reason that information didn’t spark something inside you, take this in. Victor Vescovo set a record on becoming the first American to descend deeper into the ocean than any person before him. He and his dive team were more than 35,850 feet below the surface of the Mariana Trench—the deepest point in the Earth’s oceans. That’s nearly 7 miles! That’s a similar distance between Metro State and Hidden Falls Regional Park “as the crow flies” (straight shot, not based on driving directions). Vescovo spent four hours at the bottom mapping new routes for future researchers and among the bottom? Trash. While a single piece of plastic isn’t going to single-handedly kill the ocean species, it’s a reminder on the impact human’s have and how far it reaches.