TW Viewpoint | The Plastic In Our OceansMay 2, 2018 | Jonathan Riley
Amidst all the fear and government funds being thrown into climate change research, comparatively little time and effort is spent on a potentially greater threat to life on earth, the plastic in our oceans. According to a recent UK government report the plastic floating in our oceans may triple over the next ten years!
The report on the UK government website titled 'Foresight: Future of the Sea' projected that non-degradable plastic will "triple in a decade without further intervention."
The harm that this will bring to marine life is potentially catastrophic. The report states that "Around 70 per cent of all litter in the sea is plastic, which not only accumulates on beaches and strandlines but also clogs the digestive tracks of birds and fish. Across the globe, we produce more than 300 million tonnes of plastic per annum . . . Plastic breaks down into ever smaller pieces, rather than decomposing."
The area causing the most concern is the Pacific Ocean where plastic concentration is at its highest level. Dubbed the 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch' predictions have suggested that there is about 80,000 tons of plastic between California and Hawaii. Unlike climate change reports and computer model predictions that are both difficult to quantify and subject to error, the threat to our oceans by non-biodegradable plastic are both measurable and their effects can be seen firsthand.
Another study which investigated microplastics found in seafood consumed by humans reported that shellfish could be the greatest source of microplastics in the human diet. If plastic levels are to increase than so does the potential for toxicity in the diets of many.
While the projections of increasing amounts of plastic finding its way to the oceans can paint a bleak picture. One innovative mind is seeking to face this issue head on. Boyan Slat is a name you will likely hear a lot more of in future. This young Dutch inventor is still only 23 years old. Yet at the age of 16 he realised the tremendous effect that plastic was having on the ocean. In 2013 he founded a non-profit entity called "The Ocean Cleanup." Slat and his team have secured more than $31.5 million dollars in funding and for the past couple of years have been conducting tests in the North Sea and Pacific Ocean. They have designed a large scale floating model that harnesses the ocean current in order to remove plastic debris from the ocean. What is equally as impressive is that by selling the plastic Slat predicts his non-profit will actually become self-funded and clear 50% of the 'Great Pacific Garbage Patch' in just five years. They expect to launch the cleanup system this year and by 2020 will have full scale deployment across the Pacific.
So what is the takeaway from all this? What lessons can we learn from the mess that mankind makes and the ingenuity and creative mind we possess. We are simultaneously capable of achieving great potential and causing utter devastation. One of the first Viewpoints we uploaded was titled "Are You a Good Person?" In the video we encourage you to consider your actions and the source of your morality. The decisions we make on a daily basis impacts the lives and environment that surrounds us. How are you going to apply yourself today?