The plastic things that we use every day are of course convenient and extraordinarily cheap to produce. Nevertheless, what happens after we use them? According to researchers, humankind produces so much plastic garbage that it would be possible to cover the entire coastal area of the world with sacks of the stuff. Unfortunately, a significant portion of this refuse ends up in the ocean.
This floating garbage patch
This floating garbage is unevenly distributed. Currents and winds caused it to accumulate in particular parts of the Oceans. Gradually the plastic that has arrived on our shores is surrounding entire continents. The latest garbage accumulation found in the late 90s is in the northern part of the Pacific Ocean and is called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. According to various estimates, the mass of this waste is up to 100 million tons, and the patch area is anywhere from two hundred and seventy thousand to five hundred and seventy-nine thousand square Miles. That is about one and a half million square kilometers. It is difficult to determine dimensions that are more accurate.
However, for comparison, the size of Madagascar is about 193 thousand square miles that are a half million square kilometers and Greenland is seven hundred and seventy-two thousand square miles that are approximately two million square Kilometers. In other words, this patch is somewhere between the size of Madagascar and Greenland. Not bad for a pile of rubbish right? But we’re just getting started.
A patch off the coast of Chile discovered in 2016 could beat this fantastic record. One-fifth of this waste of which this newly formed island consists is tossed overboard from passing ships. The rest is runoff from sewers and waterways along the shores. Calculations of environmentalists vary, but there is one estimate that as much as 8 million tons of plastic enter the Earth’s oceans every year. The mentioned pile is about three percent of the total of all of the world’s wastes.
Asian countries are considered to be the primary polluters
Asian countries are considered to be the primary polluters. Primarily China, where the industry is booming to the detriment of the environment and to which not much attention is paid. New continents might be considered a good thing especially for prominent thinkers who believe our planet is suffering from overpopulation. But plastic in the ocean is a huge problem, and it’s not a matter of aesthetics. Pieces of garbage carried by waves under the influence of sunlight become fragile and when colliding with rocks ship hulls or fragments of other debris quickly break into smaller and smaller chunks. Birds and sea creatures swallow these tiny pieces of plastic thinking it is food. In the best case, the foreign object will pass through the animal’s gut. But in other cases, it can kill the animal or remain in the body.
We don’t know what happens to a living creature in whose stomach the plastic hangs were out for years. It might release a few poisonous substances and poison the poor animals’ body. Poisons can also reach other living beings including humans along the food chain. Especially if for example a pack of commercial fish feeds in a littered area. Moreover, the plastic itself can absorb poisonous substances such as mercury. This is not just a matter of deadly danger. However, sea animals can become enmeshed in scraps of fishing nets and other wastes and also become entangled in polyethylene products such as plastic bags and tapes.
At the same time due to the debris, the water surface reflectivity, and permeability changes affecting inhabitants of the lower layers. Over time, the problem will only increase. According to some estimates, the total mass of plastic in the ocean will reach that of the total mass of all fish in the sea by the middle of the century.
What could be the solution!
There are two distinct solutions to this problem.
- Find ways to purify the water of the debris that is already in it
- Reduce the rate of pollution or ideally to stop it altogether perhaps by moving to the use of biodegradable plastics.
The first approach is a favorite of many environmentalists. However, there are also some exciting possibilities and the works for these secondary uses of non-degradable plastic. There are new kinds of utensils and containers building materials and even fabric created from used plastic. All in all, this requires a sustained effort in the separate collection of garbage using aggressive consumer sorting and distribution to processing plants. However, it can work.
In Japan, for example, the Kansai international airport and a metallurgical plant are built on artificial islands of garbage. In Tokyo Bay, you may know Shima or dream island is an artificial island made from waste landfill and includes a park, a stadium, a museum and beautiful giant tropical greenhouse domes among other things. So they were able to dispense with millions of tons of garbage. They made it toxic, logically safe, and they increased the size of the country. A similar project has been implemented in Singapore.
A garbage island there has been planted with trees. There the ecological situation surrounding it is quite favorable and has become somewhat popular among local fishers. A team put together by an heir to the famous Rothschild dynasty was able to travel from San Francisco to Australia on a yacht made from plastic bottles, and the ship with honor withstood the mighty oceans test.
Also Read – Famous YouTubers you may want to check out today
Designers and architects are constructing entire buildings using plastic waste. These are however instead conceptual constructions that do more to draw attention to the problem than solve It. There are also several projects in the pipeline to cleanse the oceans using contraptions that would capture the waste already in the water without disturbing the marine inhabitants.
The growth of garbage patches is also being checked with the help of restrictive measures. In some countries and states, It is now forbidden to give customers free plastic bags in supermarkets. There are bans on disposable utensils made from non-degradable plastic. The problem is that it is not particularly easy to make plastic that is both eco-friendly and at the same time can withstand temperature extremes. Such as going through a microwave cycle or merely sitting in a refrigerator for a period.
Even if we can find an optimal solution for such production, it’s always possible that the manufacturing process itself could create the environmental problems than an innocuous plastic island. But we can replace much of this stuff with a variety of different biodegradable plastics made from such things as starch cellulose and other similar materials. Ordinary polyethylene plastic bags can be replaced with those made from starch. They do readily decompose but unfortunately can at this point carry only a small load. There are also biodegradable bags made by the oXXO company.
There is biodegradable packaging that can crumble into dust during a short period of between 1 to 5 years. But again this requires the right perfect conditions for example composting, contact with water, and ultraviolet light. In general, the prospects for this industry do exist. Here’s something interesting! There have been some statements in the press that the amount of garbage is much lower than what scientists say. So either it is disappearing somehow, or the scientists are lying. Which is it?
Well, indeed there is the possibility that the plastics in the ocean are breaking up into such microscopic particles that they can no longer be seen in the water or perhaps the debris is sinking to the bottom of the oceans. Along with the fish that swallowed it and died or maybe marine dwellers get snagged by chunks of garbage and are dragged down under the weight.
We know that some of the garbage gets frozen in the ice of the Arctic and Antarctic and some are carried back ashore onto beaches. For example, some rocks recently appeared in Hawaii that turned out to be partially made of plastic. Heated plastics bind together grains of sand pebbles shells and other natural materials. In this case, it’s possible to distinguish little-broken things like toothbrushes toys and other such items embedded in the conglomeration.
More optimistic possibility
However, there is a more positive possibility. Until now it was believed that human-made polymers could not be consumed or biodegraded by any of the inhabitants of our dear planet. One more modern view holds that the mysterious disappearance of debris in the ocean. Maybe due to colonies of bacteria that have learned somehow that if they cannot consume and destroy the plastic, they can never glass crush it into smaller and smaller pieces. Accurate this view has not yet received widespread acceptance and the life and whereabouts of these plastic particles is still unexplained even after this grinding down.
More recently it turned out that at least one insect has learned to deal with at least polyethylene. The larvae of a common pest called wax moths can eat a hole in a plastic bag in a mere 40 minutes. This was a chance discovery by a biologist named Federica Bertocchini who when studying the creatures, cleaned out one of the beehives that they had invaded and put the detested pests into a plastic bag. Later she looked at the bag and saw that they had eaten a bunch of holes in it. A later experiment showed that a hundred wax moth caterpillars could break down 92 milligrams of polyethylene in just half an hour. Ethylene glycol is the byproduct, usually a poisonous substance but it does not harm the moths. Moreover, even natural polyethylene products were shown to be decomposed by the moth larvae.
Scientists now intend to isolate the enzyme that the insect synthesizes naturally and then artificially recreated. How it all works is that it turns out polyethylene is similar in structure to beeswax and for these pests that move into beehives eating beeswax is their usual routine. This ability shown by the wax moth larvae is especially relevant given that polyethylene accounts for about 40% of the world’s plastic garbage founded dumps. Perhaps nature really will learn how to cope with polymers much as it dealt with the at first indigestible cellulose from trees 400 million years ago. The first trees were once utterly inedible for bacteria and fungi. It was four hundred million years ago an environmental disaster as dead trees littered the world. But they are now readily composed down into the little dirt.
An optimistic conclusion
So we can draw such an optimistic conclusion. It’s our duty to assist nature as best we can. It the very least for our health and comfort It’s not so difficult to be conscious of the fate of a discarded thing to bring a cloth bag instead of taking a plastic one to a store. To reuse that bag many times, and to not get carried away using disposable plates, packaging, and utensils and to use paper products in their place when you can. Separating refuse by type helps the planet and using energy-saving light bulbs, and solar cells significantly reduce the total impact on the environment. Land that is given over to landfills is challenging to return to normal, and even a single discarded plastic bag or soda bottle can spoil one’s impression of a picturesque panorama.
We have learned to keep our bodies and our homes clean. The next step should be the purity of the planet. Don’t wait for your neighbors, friends, and family to act first. It truly all begins with you.