Ocean Health: A spotlight on plastic pollution


Courtesy of Nils Ally

Pictured is Guyana, a country in South America which is dealing with the ocean littering issue along with the rest of the world.

Kate Huntzicker, Cougar Star Staff

Envision one big, blue whale swimming in the ocean. Now think of 10 whales, 100 whales, 1000 whales, and finally 80,000 blue whales. Those whales are all in danger.

 Consider this important fact, almost eight million metric tons of plastic pollute our oceans each year, equivalent to the weight of 80,000 blue whales. Ocean pollution is a serious issue for the environment, as it is a hazard for the approximate 228,000 species of marine life. Scientific data shows that plastic pollution negatively impacts water quality.

Ocean health is important to human life too. For example, medicines that help cure heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and even cancer all contain ingredients that come from the ocean.  

One of the main causes of ocean pollution is single-use plastic such as straws, bags, bottles, and containers.  Almost 50% of plastics produced every year are single-use. These products are popular because of their low cost and convenience to use.  Unfortunately, many plastics do not make it into a landfill or get recycled. Plastics often wind up in our oceans.

“Even if you never have the chance to see or touch the ocean, the ocean touches you with every breath you take, every drop of water you drink, every bite you consume,” marine biologist Sylvia Earle said in her book “The World is Blue”. “Everyone everywhere is inextricably connected and utterly dependent on the existence of the ocean.”

Next, animals that live in the ocean can get trapped, harmed, and even killed because of plastics and other pollutions invading their home. In fact, it’s estimated that over one million marine animals die each year because of pollution. Animals can die from getting tangled up in plastic, or from eating it thinking its food when in reality they just starve and die. 

Pollution is a problem, but solutions are being created to help eliminate waste and contamination going into oceans. Websites, activist groups, and organizations are all working hard to prevent pollution, and finding ways to make it easier for anyone to get involved and help make a difference. In honor of Earth Day, which was on April 22 and celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, let’s challenge ourselves to reduce and reuse plastics so that ocean health improves. Doing so would be a good thing for all life on earth.