The Lasting Harm of Plastic Pollution
Plastic pollution is not just a problem for marine life. It is a problem for the world, that affects every person on the planet. Scientists estimate 19 billion pounds of plastic ends up in the ocean yearly. Researchers expect that number to double by 2025. The plastic sickens and kills bountiful marine wildlife daily. Scientists estimate 90% of seabirds have plastic in their bellies. Investigators studied cases of baby dolphins dying with no clear explanation. They soon discovered microplastics lacing the mother's milk.
There are several more victims than just sea creatures. Plastic pollution chokes away the life of marine ecosystems. Coral reefs die, ecosystems change and dead zones where nothing can grow or live grow larger. The problem will wind up on your dinner plate as fish contaminated with plastics enter the human food chain.
Discoveries in different areas of the globe are spurring outrage and action. After Honduran officials discovered another trash island off the coast, Central American countries began plastic pollution discussions. A sperm whale with 64 pounds of garbage in its' intestines in Spain inadvertently launched an awareness campaign. Canada is pushing for international action on plastic pollution at the G-7 summit. America has implemented various policies, from a plastic bag ban in California to a straw-on-request policy in 2000 restaurants. Corporations and large businesses are pledging plastic pollution responsibility globally as well. Unfortunately, none of this is enough.
The facts are that the countries speaking the loudest on this topic are not the chief sources of plastic pollution. Although America uses a high percentage of plastics, it has rigorous methods for recycling and disposal. Recycling and environmental practices are similarly more popular in European and Western countries. Basically, the main sources of plastic pollution in the oceans waters come from countries with less sophisticated waste management. World leaders must meet an agreement to address the problem and hold each other accountable.
A Plastic Pollution AccordThese world leaders will need to take an aggressive approach to combat the growing effects of plastic pollution. The only appropriate solutions must reach to every corner of the globe and have enforcement and culpability behind them. Many have suggested a similar arrangement to the Paris Climate Accord. With an accord in place, binding pollution reduction targets for every country would be assessed based on their contribution to the issue. When a country does not meet their target, other world powers would be able to hold them responsible. Because the percentage of plastic pollutants in oceans is expected to double, its' imperative a binding agreement is reached. This is the only way to save our waters and the future of our planet as we know it.
Why Is This Our Problem?
As we mentioned before, America is not even close to the top of the list of the contributors to this problem. Disproportionately, Asian countries make up for nearly 86% of ocean plastics contribution. Nature Magazine reported this number coming from Asian rivers in a June 2017 study. When most hear this percentage, they may wonder why we must take action.
The truth is that although Asian countries may contribute significantly, they don't suffer the consequences. Large ocean currents carry waste out into large gyres. This is how the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and other floating islands of trash are formed. With no immediate consequences for the pollution, Asian countries may not find the issue as urgent. That is why global action and accountability must be assessed. After all, scientists are beginning to find microplastics from plastic pollution everywhere. From salt, fertilizer, fish to over 90% of bottled water, the plastic pollution problem is entering our lives. No matter who is the primary cause, it must be corrected by all citizens of the world, before its' too late.