How Plastic is Affecting the Ocean
Why the Ocean is Important
The ocean is a magnificent and curious place. More than 70% of Earth’s surface is covered by the ocean. On average, it is roughly two miles deep, but there are areas that are much deeper. The ocean plays an important role in the stability of the Earth. It helps regulate climate, it is home to roughly one million species of wildlife and it produces half of the world’s oxygen. The ocean is critical to our planet and our survival, and it needs our attention.
Plastic in the Ocean
Time and again we learn how bad plastic is for the environment. It surfaces in many places that it doesn’t belong, one of which is the ocean. According to “A Guide to Plastic in the Ocean” on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “scientists estimate that 8 million metric tons enter the ocean each year.” Commonly found plastics in the ocean are cigarette butts, bottle caps, straws, cups & plates, single-use bags, food wrappers and beverage bottles.
In many ways, plastic pollution harms ocean ecosystems and everything around it. Plastic trash accumulates on shores and in waterways. Wildlife becomes entangled in it or mistakes it for food and often become sick or die. Plastic pollution is also harmful to coral reefs.
How Plastic Affects Coral Reefs
Coral reefs are formed of colonies of coral polyps held together by calcium carbonate. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, whose polyps cluster in groups. Coral reefs protect coastlines from erosion and they also provide local communities with jobs and food sources. Many wildlife species live in or around coral reefs. In fact, 25% of the ocean’s fish depend on healthy coral reefs, according to NOAA.
Studies show that plastic pollution has many negative effects on the stability and health of reefs. In particular, this study in Science Mag revealed that the likelihood of disease for corals that come in contact with plastic increases from 4% to 89%.
How does this happen? The scientists who conducted the study also shared that plastics often block oxygen and light from reaching the coral which is needed for survival. Plastic also supports the growth of harmful pathogens that are then transported into the reefs causing them to become sick.
Refuse Single-Use Waste & Choose Reusable
You have the power to change the world with your choices each day. Choosing to avoid plastic, specifically single-use plastic, and sharing your knowledge of the damage it causes to the environment is a great way to make a difference. Roughly 300 million tons of plastic are created yearly and 50% of that is for single-use plastics. From cups, lids & straws to plates and bags, we are overwhelmed with choices of single-use plastics.
Consider a normal week and how many single-use plastics are offered to you at the grocery store, coffee shop, lunch takeout cart, and more. Saying no to those plastics is a start. Next is bringing reusable items with you even if that means spending an extra few minutes to brew your coffee at home and put it in a travel-friendly cup. A reusable item that is built to last will have a more positive impact on the environment than many alternatives.
Sidenote, recycling is important in helping to reduce items sent to the landfill. Definitely continue all efforts to recycle properly!
However, it is also important to know when a lasting product could be more eco-friendly than a recyclable one. Take a single-use cup for example. You could get a recyclable cup every day from the coffee shop and put it in the recycle bin. Some of those cups won’t make it through the process because they’re too dirty, they’ll get blown away by the wind, or a recycle bin won’t be conveniently nearby and they’ll end up in a garbage can instead.
Or, you could skip all of the recyclable cups and replace it with one reusable, unbreakable cup. A Silipint can be used for hot and cold, it doesn’t contain harmful toxins that break down with time and it will last you a lifetime of use.
This is just one example of why choosing reusable is an eco-conscience alternative to recyclable.
Learn, share, donate & volunteer for organizations that are making a difference in the rehabilitation of the ocean. The Reef Ball Foundation, Coastal Conservation Association and more are actively working towards cleaning, restoring and rehabilitating ocean habitat and ecosystems and equally important – raising awareness!
“The Reef Ball Foundation is an international non-profit foundation whose mission is to rehabilitate and protect our world’s ocean ecosystems through the development and use of ecologically sound-designed reefs and related systems. Emphasizing in on-going research, public education, community involvement, and reefs that promote and support natural species diversity and population density.”
“Reef Ball modules are designed to mimic natural reefs. These basic modules and related adaptations using Reef Ball technology are the backbone of restoration and protection efforts and are by far the most-used and recognized designed reef structure in the world. Reef Balls are ideally suited for a wide-range of aquatic habitats even when used in engineering applications.”
There are Reef Balls in over 62 countries and the foundation has conducted over 6,000 projects to restore ocean habitat. Learn more about all of the incredible ways The Reef Ball Foundation has made a difference and how you can take part as well.