The Impact of Waste on the Oceans and How Marine Life Is Suffering From It

If you haven’t had time to read or catch-up on our past articles about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, then chances are you might not be aware of how plastics and other such waste affect our oceans and other natural bodies of water. This issue has become a very big problem. Humans are basically treating our oceans like it’s a giant disposal bin and all the waste—about 80% of generated trash—is greatly impacting the composition of the sea as well as the marine life that depends on it for survival.

Animals that dwell in the sea are eating the plastic waste floating around in the water currents and then end up dying from internal blockage or strangulation, which causes them to starve to death. For example, seals, known to be an extremely playful species, have come along and discovered discarded fishing net, fishing line, or plastic soda rings. As they begin exploring these foreign objects, too often these seals become entangled and either suffer deep lacerations which lead to infection, or they accidently strangle themselves—both scenarios usually lead to death; all marine life, whether it be birds, dolphins, whales, sharks, seals, fish, etc., is greatly affected. According to Ocean Crusaders, over “100,000 marine animals and 1 million sea birds are killed by plastic garbage every year around the world.”

Even worse, is that the harmful chemicals that make up the body of the plastic—including oily substances—are breaking down from the high concentrations of salt in the water and are then being absorbed into the fish, crustaceans, and other sources of food that potentially make it onto our dinner plate at the end of the day.

What about the water cycle, how does it work? According to the video published by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, “The sun’s energy warms the water, water becomes water vapor and enters the atmosphere where it forms clouds. The clouds carried by winds release condensed water back into the earth’s surface as precipitation. The precipitation infiltrates the soil and run off into bodies of water.” So how does plastic and other such waste affect the earth’s water cycle? At a time when there is a lot of rain fall, the rain picks up street litter—candy wrappers, plastic bottles, cigarette butts, cardboard and other discarded paper products—and sweeps it right down into the sewer drains. Eventually, these drains empty out into streams, rivers, lakes, and then into the ocean.

So what can we do to prevent all this debris from ending up in our oceans? The first step is to reduce the amount of waste you generate in your household each day. Instead of throwing that plastic bottle into the trash, place it in a recycling bin instead, and safely dispose of other plastic materials if you choose to buy them. Another good step besides recycling what you can is to reuse what you can and invest in better, more chemical-free products. Even better, if you live near the beach or around another body of water, become aware to the kinds of trash around it. Get a few friends together and spend the day safely picking up that trash and recycling what you can. Anything you can do can make a world of difference!


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-Photo Credit: Ashley L.


-Written by: Ashley L.