Article originally posted at: www.oberk.com
Plastic can be found in many of the items that people use on a daily basis. Despite the benefits that make it popular, the overuse of plastic is taking a heavy toll on the environment, particularly the ocean.
For many years, throwing away a plastic bottle was done with little thought, and even today, many people routinely toss away plastic goods such as straws, utensils, or bags without considering what happens to them. Many of these items make their way into rivers and eventually the ocean, where they leach chemicals into the water that harm both human and animal health.
For instance, fish are exposed to these toxins and ingest them, and then people who eat the fish are also exposed to these chemicals. Over time, this can cause problems such as birth defects or cancer. Plastics such as bottles, netting and straps, soda rings, and pellets further threaten wildlife in a number of ways. Seabirds, for example, often consume plastic, which they may inadvertently feed to their young, harming or killing them in the process. And sea turtles and other marine life frequently become trapped and tangled in plastic debris, which can cause suffocation, starvation, lacerations, and death.
Plastic debris in the ocean can accumulate in gyres or circulating ocean currents. This debris attracts other marine pollutants and continues to grow as more plastics make their way into the gyre, creating large marine trash vortexes. The largest of these is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is located in the North Pacific Ocean and is currently estimated at three times the size of France.
Trash vortexes such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch continues to grow in size because most types of plastic are non-biodegradable: When a plastic bottle is tossed into the water, it cannot be transformed over time into a harmless state by natural means. Instead, it may break into smaller pieces of plastic called microplastics that remain a part of the vortex.
Fortunately, the more people understand plastic ocean pollution, the more chances there are that action will be taken to reduce it.