Pollution in the Pacific Ocean

Pollution has become an ongoing problem throughout the Earth. From air pollution to waste pollution, the Earth is getting destroyed from the carelessness of others. More importantly, plastic is one of the leading problems of waste pollution, as it can take hundreds of years to break down, if at all. As the plastic industries grow, so does the amount of waste that is created, and that trash has to go somewhere. Many don’t tend to think about where their trash is going, as long as it’s out of their house, and even more of the population doesn’t recycle their plastic, which is a key component in where the waste goes. As one who recycles, I didn’t think much about where plastic ended up, as I knew mine was going to be broken down and made into something new. Though I was doing something good for the Earth, a majority of the population wasn’t doing the same. I had never focused on the news before, but a few months ago, I had gone onto the internet where many headlines pop up on the homepage. I debated on scrolling past, but I was curious as to what the current news had been. An article by Doyle Rice of USA Today caught my eye, whose headline read “World’s Largest Collection of Ocean Garbage is Twice the Size of Texas” (Rice), and I was in complete shock.

The headline had brought up many questions and thoughts about how many people had actually recycled. Apparently, there was an entire island bigger than Texas. As I read the article about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it became more apparent that many weren’t doing their part in helping the Earth. I tried to excuse the situation, but the more I had read about it, the more I realized that this had become a serious issue and it couldn’t be stopped without help. With the majority of the world doing nothing to help waste pollution, it’s brought up a lot of subjects to explore about this issue in my essay, such as the effects of plastic in the ocean, the clean-up processes dedicated to helping the earth, and what can happen to the Earth if the problem persists.

Since the main issue in ocean pollution is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, it would make sense to explain what it exactly is. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an island of trash in the Pacific Ocean that had clumped together due to converging ocean currents. Because of the currents, a majority of trash in the Pacific Ocean makes its way into the Garbage Patch. According to Rice’s article, the island “has grown to more than 600,000 square miles” as of March 2018 (Rice). What is in the Garbage Patch? Many articles explain that it is mostly plastic, which was confirmed by a study by a group at Scientific Reports, where the results that had shown up concluded that “more than 99.9% of the 1,136,145 pieces and 668 kg of floating debris” had been plastics (Lebreton et al.). Though plastic, depending on the density, doesn’t weigh much, Rice noted that the Garbage Patch weighs over 88,000 tons (Rice). It’s clear that the Great Pacific Garbage patch is not the only form of pollution in the ocean, though it is the biggest. This raised many questions for me as I thought about the entirety of the situation. How serious is the pollution problem? What are we doing to clean up the oceans? What can happen to the earth if this problem isn’t fixed?

The ocean takes in high amounts of pollution, therefore taking a lot of damage. Since plastic started being created, a majority of it has, some way or another, ended up in the ocean. Unfortunately, a study from a group at Cedarville University School of Pharmacy had given the fact that only “7% of the plastic in America is recycled” (Miller et al.). This leaves 93% of the plastic in America (note that no other country is included, leaving the amount of plastic not being recycled even higher) to show up in the oceans or landfills. As I thought more about it, I started to wonder if trash was the only form of pollution in the ocean, and if it was as serious as it sounded. Melissa Denchak of the NRDC answered my questions with a hurtful truth of everything that is affecting our oceans. Denchak explains that it isn’t just trash that pollutes the ocean, but also ocean acidification, ocean noise, and offshore drilling (Denchak). This ordeal has hurt to come to terms with, as the ocean makes up over 2/3 of Earth, and polluting it could cause some serious damage. Denchak explains the effects, which include “irreversible damage to delicate marine ecosystems… injur[ed] and kill[ed] marine invertebrates… [and] alter[ed] acoustic landscapes” (Denchak), while the study from Cedarville University School of Pharmacy also included “contaminated fish and mammals… [and] toxicity from lead, cadmium, and mercury” (Miller et al.). This relates to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch as other forms of ocean pollution. The study had only included ocean pollution, though there is also ground pollution and air pollution, adding to the problem.

The new problems I researched of ocean pollution added to my worry of these negative impacts. My next question was: What were others doing to help repair ocean pollution? I was extremely relieved to find an article by Jeff Kart of Forbes magazine, explaining the clean up plan for the oceans, coincidentally starting with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Inside the article gives a clear view of Boyan Slat’s, a Dutch inventor, plan to start cleaning up the ocean. The biggest clean up operation by far, Kart explains that “The Ocean Cleanup plans to launch… its six-thousand-meter-long floater that can collect about five tons of ocean plastic a month” (Kart). Though the organization has many critics, it has made an amazing plan expected to help clear 90% of the Patch by 2040 (Kart). The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the biggest trash island in the ocean, and there’s about 5 others. If the Patch can be cleaned up, it will be a remarkable achievement and can help clean more pollution in the coming years.

Though there’s a clean up operation starting to repair the ocean, plastic is still ending up in the oceans at an alarming rate. Another topic to further look into is the effects of the pollution if the pollution does not slow or stop. The Cedarville School of Pharmacy explained that if the clean up process does not start, the Patch could “double in size in ten years” and continue by explaining the costs could be “cigarettes, plastic bottles, cans, water purification systems, and health risks” (Miller et al.). Not cleaning up the ocean pollution could bring huge risks to the economy according to the mentioned sources and from above paragraphs. This could possibly be high risk to leave alone.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch situation can lead to many different ongoing conversations due to the nature of opinion and science. Personally, I have made a few myself: the first one being that pollution has become a huge problem not only in the United States, but throughout the world, and there needs to be ongoing conversation about how we can reduce our waste in order to avoid destroying the earth. The second being the effects of the pollution have already come a long way and have already become very high risk, and what needs to be discussed is what will happen in the future if not stopped. And the last, though there is a clean-up process underway for the situation at hand, we need to create more operations to help reduce the waste even quicker. Though what I have researched has all been negative, it is still up to the opinion of the reader of their stance on the pollution, but should be aware there’s more harm than good.

Works Cited

  1. Denchak, Melissa. “Ocean Pollution: The Dirty Facts.” NRDC (2018). Web. Retrieved from https://www.nrdc.org/stories/ocean-pollution-dirty-facts. Accessed 10 October 2018.
  2. Kart, Jeff. “The Ocean Cleanup Is Starting, Aims To Cut Garbage Patch By 90% By 2040” Forbes (2018). Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffkart/2018/08/28/the-ocean-cleanup-is-starting-aims-to-cut-garbage-patch-by-90-by-2040/#4fe0df7b253e. Accessed on 21 October 2018.
  3. Lebreton, L., et al. “Evidence that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is Rapidly Accumulating Plastic.” Scientific Reports 8.1 (2018): 4666. Web. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-22939-w. Accessed 6 October 2018.
  4. Miller, Katie, et al. “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” School of Pharmacy Cedarville University (2016). Web. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.cedarville.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1011&context=public_health_posters. Accessed 7 October 2018.
  5. Rice, Doyle. “World’s Largest Collection of Ocean Garbage is Twice the Size of Texas” USA Today (2018). Web. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/science/2018/03/22/great-pacific-garbage-patch-grows/446405002/. Accessed on 14 October 2018.
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