Water bottles, toothbrushes, and shopping bags are just a few of the plastic items in our daily lives. Only about 5% get recycled. The rest ends up in landfills or as litter that washes into streams, rivers, and, finally, the ocean.
In 1997, race boat captain Charles Moore spotted plastic debris floating in the North Pacific Gyre, one of the most remote regions in the world. Circular currents of the gyre draw in plastics and do not let them escape. Fishing nets, bottles, packaging, and much more accumulates year after year.
The area now known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now twice the size of Texas. Four other gyres trap plastic trash in huge regions of the world’s oceans. The nonprofit group 5 Gyres is studying the problem and searching for global solutions.
This debris can spell death to marine animals. A sea turtle might choke on a floating grocery sack it mistook for a jelly. Albatrosses snatch up bottle caps instead of fish and feed them to their chicks—which starve to death with bellies full of plastic.
Fish also consume tiny bits of plastic, broken up by the action of waves and sunlight. Unlike their normal plankton diet, the plastic cannot be digested but accumulates in their bodies. The plastics then move up the food chain to larger fish and ultimately humans.
Connecting our daily lives with microplastics in the Pacific Ocean isn’t easy. Help raise awareness by hosting a screening of a film such as Plastic Paradise. Find ways as an individual and a member of a faith-based community can use less plastic—and share your ideas with us at IOEC.