Global Solutions for the World’s Ocean Pollution


By Fallon Rabin

Did you know that plastic is the leading cause of pollution in our oceans? According to Associate Professor Roland Geyer, PhD, UC Santa Barbara, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, eight million tons of plastic enters the water every year. At a recent Clean Technology Council Workshop in Thousand Oaks, Geyer explained the magnitude plastic waste has on the world’s oceans, environment and our health. Fortunately, Professor Geyer also provided concrete global solutions to help stop ocean pollution.

You may have heard or seen images of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Most wouldProf Roland Geyer think that the garbage items floating in this patch are of most concern, and this is certainly true, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. It is the particles floating beneath this patch that are most troubling. Micro plastic, or plastic that has photodegraded into tiny microscopic particles, and ingested by marine life that is most threatening to the eco system. Plastic is non-biodegradable. It is forever folks! We need to find more responsible ways of managing and reducing this waste stream.

There are three main sources of plastic pollution in our oceans:

  • Waste and litter from land
  • Natural disasters
  • Maritime activities (Dump from ships, lost cargo, fishing and aquaculture, recreation, oceanographic research)

China leads globally with its plastic waste and the U.S. is twentieth. Humans have created 6.6 billion metric tons of plastic in the last 65 years and 50% of that amount was created in just the last 15 years! Approximately 6,350-245,000 metric tons of global plastic is floating in our oceans. This amount would cover an area the size of Manhattan 34 times at ankle depth! This amount doesn’t include the plastic ingested by the marine/wildlife, the seafloor, and our beaches/coastlines. Also, 80% of microfibers from clothing are found in the ocean. Did you know that if you took a scoop of sand in your hand from anywhere in the world, you would find microscopic plastic in it? We are producing more plastic waste than the environment can handle. It is not only causing health issues for marine/wildlife but also for humans.

Finally, some global solutions to stop ocean pollution:

  • Reduce plastic consumption
  • Redesign products
  • Use different materials
  • Recycle (although this is helpful, it is not a long term solution, especially if done incorrectly)

California is a true role model for the rest of the world, considering its large coastal population.  Its recycle/waste management infrastructure is among the best and they currently have a referendum to ban plastic bags statewide. If it passes, it could be the beginning of a global trend to protect our oceans and waterways from plastic waste. Ocean pollution CAN be fixed, if we work together.

Plastic ocean pollution

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