Swimming in Plastic: 8 Million New Tons per Year

by Darby on April 21, 2015 - 9:51pm

Our oceans are being filled with plastic trash at an alarming rate. There is much more out there than what can be seen in the ocean’s garbage patches, which is already an insanely large amount. A recent article, entitled “Eight Million Tons of Plastic Dumped in Ocean Every Year” written by Laura Parker was published on February 13th 2015 in the National Geographic. The article can be found at this link:http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/02/150212-ocean-debris-plastic-garbage-patches-science/. It addresses the state of our oceans and the new information arising from a recent study.

Recently, a new method has arisen, from a recent study, to measure ocean waste and its revelations are far worse than anticipated. The numbers are staggering, in fact, “in 2010, eight million tons of plastic trash ended up in the ocean from coastal countries”. Garbage collection and management are largely to blame for the trash filling our oceans. In fact, the amount of trash entering our oceans is expected to “increase tenfold in the next decade” if no changes are made to our current waste management systems. This method has allowed us to, for the first time, be able to understand how much plastic waste is going into the ocean. Before this, all we could measure was the amount of floating trash in the oceans, seen in the garbage patches, which is about 245 000 tons of plastic.

In addition, the study also revealed the countries that create the most “ocean-bound trash”; among the top twenty were China, the United States, Turkey, Brazil, five African countries and eleven Asian countries.

The USA made the list because of its dense seaside populations as well as its large consumption habits. They do however have a well-built garbage system.

What is most shocking from the study is the discrepancy between floating debris and the amount actually going into the ocean. This is important to think about when we know that garbage has been accumulating in our oceans for fifty years. Eight million tons of garbage are entering the oceans per year; a number set keep increasing as consumption does. If garbage management practices do not change, there will be no change in the amount of plastics entering our oceans. The study found that 4.8 to 12.7 million tons of plastic waste went into the ocean annually.

A lot of this can be linked back to the ever increasing use of plastic in society. For instance, “in 2012, 288 million tons of plastic were manufactured globally” and it is being found all over the place, from deep sea to arctic ice to inside some 700 marine wildlife species.

However, the discrepancy mentioned earlier has left a new puzzle to the scientific community. If there is so much more garbage in the oceans than we thought; where is it and how much of it is where?

There really is a lot of improvement to be made here. There is way to much plastic being manufactured for pointless purposes such as packaging. It’s widespread use is leading to these sorts of problems. Therefore, we really need to start acting together to improve this part of our world. Not only does that mean reducing your own plastic consumption by using re-usable grocery bags for instance, but it also means that we must push our governments to manage our waste as best they can. In addition, as consumers, we need to pressure industries into making better choices. If we refuse to buy products that are overly packaged, we place a pressure on the industry to change its packaging models.

Eight million additional tons of plastic annually cannot be ignored.

Comments

This was a great topic to shed some light on, because many of us don’t truly understand the magnitude to which our waters are polluted. This is also a very pertinent, because one of the main issues being discussed as we move forward, is protecting our environment and maintaining this planet that sustains us. The philosophy you are using to approach this system, is a teleological one. This method of thinking relies on every action being motivated by an end goal or the summum bonum. In this case, the end goal would be to change our ways as consumers and producers so as to reduce the amount of plastic we use. The other end goal which you mentioned, would be to pressure governments into adopting new tactics to tackle this crisis. In taking this a step further, the teleological approach you are applying is also at the basis of a utilitarian approach in which every action is taken for the greater good of society as a whole. This philosophy gets away from one’s self interest which is definitely not your intentions in your post. You are bringing this issue to light, because you want us as a society to adopt better methods so that we have something to leave for future generations. The flaws that our most often brought up about a utilitarian perspective, is that it doesn’t account for our attachment to people close to us as well as our limitation of knowledge. Although one’s motive for doing so may be to ensure a better world for their own ancestors, this is highly unlikely in your case as you mention that a collective effort must be made to solve our waste issues. Although we may not know the repercussions of all our actions and what the ultimate solution might be, I agree that a step must be taken anyways as this problem is only worsening.

This post, in my opinion, explores one of the most important issues the world faces today, and will have to face for the upcoming centuries. This is a great post and describes the situation clearly.

I do find, however, that there are some other ways that could be more efficient in order to attempt to resolve the issue of water pollution. The solution I believe to be the most efficient and that could have the chance of making a difference, is of a teleological point of view. The summum bonum, or end goal, is the survival of life on earth. At this rate, releasing around eight million tons of waste annually, there will be hardly any safe water for us to consume. This thought is alarming! And so, one solution would be to keep in mind the end goal and create a program to clean up as much waste as we can from the earth’s oceans, a “pollution free water program” for example, in which every 1st and 2nd world countries participate. In addition, governments could create different laws or production rules that cannot ever be modified, which limit plastic production, standardize the packaging process of items so that we reduce waste, and find a possible alternative to plastic. If steps like the ones presented above are taken, then possibly the world could see a day where its water is near pollution free and life could continue to flourish threat-free on our home planet.