Litter in Our Oceans

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An estimated 100,000 marine animals perished last year as a result of litter in our oceans. Humankind’s demand for convenience and overall nonchalance towards our world’s plight is disturbing and destructive. With landfill space rapidly diminishing and our oceans continually being clogged with an endless barrage of litter, it is obvious we need to do something. Did you know that the problem is so acute off the coast of Africa that an actual industry exists in which natives off the coast harvest plastic bags and weave them into hats and shawls? They collect an average of 30,000 bags a month. The enormous environmental fingerprint left by our natural resource consumption could be significantly reduced if we would simply reuse.

To begin with, a common misconception shall be addressed. Paper bags actually are NOT safer, more economical and overall the better choice for the environment. They require 60% more energy to produce, and, in fact, plastic bags produce 80% less solid waste, 70% fewer atmospheric emissions and 94% less waterborne wastes in production than paper bags. Yes, brown bags are biodegradable, but they are filling our diminishing landfill space and cost more to produce than plastic bags. It is a common sense situation—if the store owner wanted to save money and resources, he buys the object that costs less, which, in this case, would be plastic bags. Unfortunately for our environment and the marine animals, our negligence in recycling bags cost them their lives and our earth, its future.

Speaking of plastic, the average plastic bottle take about 450 years to break down, and even then, plastic does not biodegrade. Americans will buy an estimated 25 million, single-serving water bottles this upcoming year. And all of those bottles we didn’t feel like recycling will end being our country, or another’s problem, as much of our trash is now being shipped overseas. Let’s face it—humans are lazy. Two million seven hundred thousand tons of plastic are used to bottle water each year and that’s 15 million barrels of oil in the U.S. alone. In 1990, Americans bought 1.1 billion pounds of plastic, and in 2003, we bought more than three times that amount. The quality of bottled water, as it has been proven, is no better than tap water. The cost for the consumer is unnecessary as well—an approximate eleven billion dollars was spent on eight billion gallons of water last year alone. Even trying to reuse plastic water bottles is unwise. The water is bottled in PETE bottles which are known to leach carcinogens and potential hormone disruptors if used more than once. Chemicals linked to these bottles have been connected with a variety of disorders from obesity to breast cancer. And, plastic bottles are also nearly exempt from FDA approval if sold within state boundaries—impurities can be left to fester in the silence. Because we’re pushing for convenience, we’re butchering our environment, our body and all the while we’re throwing away our hard-earned money down the drain. That’s a great deal of blood on our hands.

Plastic bags, however, are nearly the worst object to use in environmental terms, and it takes no ecologist to understand the implications of our imprudent use of everyday commodities. Plastic bags buried in landfills can take up to 1,000 years to break down, but not before breaking into smaller and smaller toxic pieces that pollute our environment. It is estimated that 500 billion to one trillion plastic bags are consumed annually in our world—that’s a shameful (and rough) one million per minute. One hundred billion of those bags are consumed by the U.S., and according to a study conducted by
BBC, 1 in 200 plastic bags in the UK are recycled. In fact, discarded bags have become such a common piece of litter that they are now one of the twelve most common objects of litter found on beaches. Australia reported the lump sum of 88 million tons of trash, mainly plastic bags, polluted their streets in 2006 and 100 million dollars was spent on cleaning up that litter. In the U.S., plastic bag recycling rates (in actual recycling facilities) are extremely low. Only one to three percent of bags end up being recycled. This problem is partially a result of the economic wastefulness. According to the Christian Monitor, it takes $4,000 to process and recycle plastic that would be sold to companies for $32 on the commodities market. Many would ask what the point would be in that. Furthermore, plastic production is a huge gas guzzler –while we’re grumbling about huge cars, let’s discuss the environmental catastrophe posed by plastic bags. These plastic bags require a large usage of petroleum and natural gas. This wastes our natural resources and increases our dependency on foreign suppliers. Yet what is the best solution to this gigantic calamity? What else can you do, these bags are all that are available. Nope. The solution? BYOB—Bring your own bag! Polyester or nylon or a handbag, whatever it may be, with this seemingly small effort, you will be helping to save the environment from greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and the waste of our valuable resources.

Statistics don’t lie, and it’s more than evident that we are dealing with an enormous economic and environmental crisis that is now lounging on our doorstep. With the usage of our ever-convenient brown bags, plastic bottles and plastic bags, we are virtually annihilating our posterity’s chance at a healthy, safe, earth. By taking simple every-day precautions, we can effectively reduce our wastefulness. As once said, “The ultimate test of man’s conscious may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for the future generations, whose words of thanks will not be heard.” Who now will take the stand?





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baby girl said...
Feb. 16, 2011 at 10:29 pm
you r a awsome writer great essay 4 u i really need 1 right now hahaha
 
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