By: Leslie Perez
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We live in a world where plastic and the ocean are fighting for the same place.
In the year 2050, plastic in the ocean will take over the fish in the ocean. This means that most of the sea animals that live in the ocean will die in a couple of weeks. Plastic has been used since the 1940s and has been a daily part of our lives because they are easy to throw out. Plastic is used for things such as grocery bags, produce bags, water bottles, coffee cups, etc.
Why should we do something about plastic in the ocean? Why now and not in 2050? Plastic can usually take about 1000 years to decompose, depending on what plastic you have used. Perhaps you’re telling yourself that you don’t really use that much plastic, but you are probably wrong because you are using plastic whenever you buy fast food, a drink, or when you buy your groceries. This could harm the food chain in many ways and in turn, the people who eat this food. For example, the plastic that goes into the ocean could carry toxins, which could affect the animals’ fat and tissues when consumed by them. It could also affect people who consume fish because there will be fewer fish around and the fish eaten could be contaminated, which could lead to hospitalization. Some examples of the impact of pollution on the ocean’s environment include waste and chemicals that enter the ocean and affect fish and other marine mammals. In addition, this could increase mass chemicals such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which can promote the growth of algal bloom; this is not only toxic to our ocean environment but also harmful to humans.
Animals will probably eat the plastic because they mistaken it for food or will accidentally choke on the plastic, which would slowly kill its population. Banning plastic bags is one potential solution. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, some steps that NYC has taken to ban plastic bags include placing reusable bags and paper bags in grocery stores, clothing stores, and other stores. However, plastic is not the only cause of this problem. Some of the biggest causes of marine pollution are when improperly managed litter is carried into storm drains, beach visitors littering, and the fishing and fossil fuel industry. The fossil fuel industry not only affects the atmosphere, but also our oceans because carbon dioxide enters the ocean and reacts to the sea water, which makes carbonic acid. The fishing industry is also a big cause of marine pollution because the chemicals they use contaminate the areas where sea mammals live.
One way we could stop this is by using less single-use plastic such as plastic forks, knives, take-out containers, just to name a few. We can also recycle properly. I asked my older sister to tell me about her experience with marine debris and how it has helped her understand this issue more clearly. She says, “With my experience, I was able to understand how long it takes for certain items to decompose. It can take up to 200 years for plastic straws to decompose. Isn’t that crazy? This is harming sea animals—fishes are dying and dolphins, turtles, and seals are in great danger because of us.” Another question I asked her was how society can help to reduce marine debris. She replies, “A society can help reduce marine debris in various ways. One being to stop littering; it’s not hard to throw something in a trash can. Another way is by reducing the use of plastic; trying to use paper bags instead of plastic ones. Try buying a water bottle instead of buying several plastic ones. Little things like that can have a huge impact on this planet.” I also interviewed a friend of mine to ask her about some ways our generation could do about marine debris. She tells me that “Some [things] our generation should do to stop marine debris is to stop using plastic, help our planet by recycling, and reducing it because if we don’t stop it would harm the sea animals and then the animals would die and go extinct.” Another question I asked her was what our government should do to help reduce our marine debris. She says, “Our government should reduce marine debris by making jobs where people pick up marine debris in beaches. I think this is a great idea because this could help with unemployment and also save the planet.”
Remember this is something that is not forced upon you, but if you do something about it then you could change animal lives forever. Small changes can become huge changes later in life. It could help create a world where our oceans are not full of plastic and a future where plastic use is reduced.