How plastic pollution is affecting our oceans

Plastic. A plastic bag tangled in marine life
Naja Bertolt Jensen on Unspalsh

Single-use plastic has been the go-to material for many things in recent years. We’re a society that craves ease of use, simplicity, and low-cost products. But years of this type of consumption have had a negative impact on our environment and the creatures and plants we share it with.

Every minute, one million plastic bottles are purchased worldwide. More often than not, they’re used once and then thrown away. This type of single-use plastic isn’t biodegradable. That means it has to be disposed of in some way. Between the 1970s and 1990s, plastic production and therefore waste generation, more than tripled. It was at a higher level in the early 2000s than it was for the whole of the previous 40 years.

Those figures are terrifying. Particularly when they’re looked at in relation to how the waste they create is disposed of. It can take over 500 years for plastic to degrade, therefore it is usually disposed of in some way. Millions of tonnes of plastic waste are shipped to destinations where it is then burned or dumped. About 79% of all plastic waste ends up in landfills or the ocean with only 9% being recycled.

Of the waste that ends up in our oceans, a lot of it is transported there by the rivers that feed them. It’s estimated that almost 80% of the plastic emissions into the oceans, come from around 1000 rivers.

Plastic pollution in our Oceans

Plastic waste gradually breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces which humans and animals ingest. But it’s in our oceans where this has the biggest impact. 100 million marine animals die each year as a result of plastic waste. Around 100,000 died as a result of getting tangled in larger pieces.

Plastic pollution
Photo by Naja Bertolt Jensen on Unsplash

It’s estimated there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic waste in our oceans. Some of those pieces float but the vast majority are found beneath the surface. Marine creatures mistake these small pieces for food and so eat them. But because they are ingestible, they are responsible for so many sea creatures dying.

So, finding ways to stop using single-use plastic items such as drink bottles, bags, and wipes, has to be a priority for everyone. Most of us now take our bags to the supermarket, which we reuse repeatedly. Similarly, many of us use a refillable cup or bottle which cuts down on the volume going to landfill.

With a bit of preparation and thought, it can be just as easy to replace things like single-use wipes. These often contain plastic and create a large proportion of the waste in landfills. It’s estimated that we bin around 11 billion wet wipes every year. That’s a lot of wipes.

Reusable wipes

Switching to reusable wipes has a massive impact on the amount of waste households create, particularly those with small children. Fabric wipes are easy to use, washable, and cheaper to buy in the long run.

There is a range of retailers who sell reusable wipes from well-known brands such as Cheeky Wipes to small independent shops like CG Beeswax Wipes or Sprout Organic.

The beauty of reusable wipes, apart from the fact that they’re kinder to the environment, is that they can be sued for anything from makeup removal to cleaning up spills and keeping your baby clean. They’re also kinder to the skin and because they’re washable, you won’t run out.

Making small changes to some of the ways we do things, or the products we buy so that they are kinder to the environment, is easier than you think. It just takes a bit of planning and researching the best options so that your purchases are more eco-friendly.

Plastic. Piles of patterned fabric
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

If you enjoyed reading this article, why not buy me a coffee to help keep the magazine free for everyone to read? If you’d like to read more articles about adoption, parenting health and well-being, and eco-swaps, head over to the home page and have a look at what’s new.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here