Plastic Pollution

By Will McDowell

   Between California and Hawaii, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch measures 1.6 million square kilometers, twice the size of Texas. Large buildup of plastic and other garbage in the ocean has created five large garbage patches in the Earth’s oceans, the largest of these being in the Pacific. These garbage patches occur when ocean currents bring together trash. Since plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose, the amount of trash in these patches is growing exponentially, according to The Ocean Cleanup. Research has estimated the garbage patch to have a mass of about 80,000 metric tons with 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic in it.

   These statistics show the magnitude of a well-known, but still growing, problem on our planet. One part of the problem is a lack of understanding of how the patches affect humans and marine wildlife. First, 46 percent of the garbage was made up of fishing nets. Marine wildlife such as turtles get caught in these nets and often die as a result. In addition, according to National Geographic, animals that pass through the garbage patch are likely eating plastic with toxic chemicals in it. Therefore, animals migrating through the patch are ingesting chemicals that could put their health in danger. These toxic chemicals eventually make their way up the food chain and into human bodies, meaning that humans are consuming the very same chemicals that we put in the water to begin with. Our pollution damages not only the environment, but our own health as well.

   There are two main reasons that this problem has not been dealt with yet. One is that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is too far away from any country’s coast to be considered theirs. The other is that it would cost a large amount of money and labor to deal with—in fact, the person who discovered the garbage patch claimed that it would bankrupt whoever tried to clean it up. Since this is the case, I suggest that all countries put a small tax on things that contribute to pollution, such as fishing nets and plastic bags, and offer environmentally friendly substitutes. The money collected from the taxes would go towards funding projects to clean up the garbage patch or spreading awareness to the public. This plan would help reduce the amount of trash flowing into the patch, provide money to get current trash out, and not bankrupt any country doing so.