Plastic Pollution In The Mariana Trench
By Sanjida Parvin
Kathy Sullivan. Does this name sound familiar?
You guessed it right. Kathy is the first American woman who walked in space.
Do you know where else she has been recently?
The Mariana Trench ─ aka: the deepest point on Earth.
But Kathy has lost to someone on her quest to the sea.
Who? Wanna guess?
A plastic bag ─ a bag that you may have thrown away after you got your groceries for Christmas dinner.
So how did the plastic bag from your Christmas shopping make its journey around the world and end up in the ocean’s heart?
Why should you care about a plastic bag in the vast ocean anyway? There is a lot of space in the sea and one bag won’t do any more harm, right?
WRONG. Let’s talk about that.
Mariana Trench Plastic ─ Why It Matters
Plastic in the ocean is nothing new. We have been hearing that news for decades now. There is roughly 269,000 tonnes of plastic in the sea. On top of that, new plastic debris makes its way to the sea every single day.
So, out of millions of plastic bags, why is this bag getting all the attention?
Let me ask you a question first. Have you heard about Mount Everest?
Mount Everest is the highest peak that stands above the sea level, rising about 8,848.86m above the sea surface. Now, If you can somehow place the entire Everest at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, it will be still more than 2000 meters below sea level.
Finding plastic that deep in the ocean has left everyone thinking about the severity of the pollution in our ocean.
This is not even the first time divers have found the existence of plastic in Mariana. Thirteen people have descended to the heart of the ocean. Out of them, three divers found the existence of plastic proliferates in the deepest point of the Mariana Trench.
What About Other Parts of the One World Ocean?
The Mariana Trench is not the only place where they have found traces of plastic.
All deep trenches have been contaminated with microplastic in noticeable levels. As deep as 10,000 meters, where many marine creatures are still unknown to the vast knowledge of humankind. Even at such depths our very own microplastic has been traced in the stomach of the sea animals.
Almost all the animals in these trenches have this microplastic in their guts. This shows how there may not be a single marine organism which has not been directly or indirectly affected by invasive plastics.
What Did They Find There?
So the plastic bag from your grocery shopping has already completed its expedition to the deep sea.
But remember, all the candies you loved on Halloween. They are not also far behind.
On his record-breaking dive to the deepest trench, an explorer revealed that he found a plastic bag and candy wrapper. It’s hard to fathom these items at such a depth. A depth where no human has ever been before.
It does not end there. Almost all the organisms that have been examined are said to have microplastic in their systems. These microplastics come from the plastic bottle we drink water from. They come from the everyday toothbrush, and even the credit cards we use to buy plastics!
How Bad is the Pollution, Really?
We all know the oceans on earth are three times larger than dry land. While the land is accommodating all the inventions of humanity, it is not able to contain all of the plastic. It is worrisome how much plastic is spilling over into our one world ocean.
The depth of the sea often represents how wholeheartedly the ocean welcomes every living and non-living thing as her own. This sometimes becomes her biggest weakness, too. All the plastics we are throwing in the sea ultimately end up in the ocean floors or floats upon the waves.
The following data will help you picture the extent of pollution in the ocean.
➔ At least 8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year
➔ An estimated 150 million tons of plastic is floating around in the ocean already
➔ There will likely be more plastic in the ocean than fish by the year 2050
This is not the end. Only a small percentage of plastic stays afloat on the sea, while the rest of the plastics sinks to the bottom of the sea floor. There are many chemical pollutants added to these plastics that can contaminate the water, which is very alarming.
How Does Pollution Affect Marine Life
You have seen the picture of the turtle that had a plastic straw stuck in his mouth.
Marine creatures are often twisted with plastic waste and lose their ability to move or eat. This makes them vulnerable to predators, or they sometimes die of starvation as well.
Sometimes they eat plastic waste considering it as food. Almost 90% of birds and 52% of turtles have had plastic in their guts at some point.
If the plastic enters the system of the animal somehow, it can block their gut and make the animals starve to death.
Similarly, microplastic enters the marine food chain affecting animals of every stage.
How Does Plastic Affect Us?
The existence of microplastics in the human body has already been proved through various studies. It enters through the seafood we eat, resulting in long-term health issues. It also enters through less obvious sources like sea salt, which absorbs toxins from the ocean. The presence of plastic has even been found in beer, tap water, and bottled water.
I don’t know about you, but this news makes me want to put an end to the problem of plastic pollution. Not just for me, but for all future generations of people and wildlife.
What Can You Do?
Is it already too late to turn the tides of plastic-based destruction?
However, it may have come to a point when going back is not an option anymore. So, we all have to take our stand now. Your awareness will contribute a lot to save our beautiful shores.
Use the magic number 3.
1. Cut down three single use plastics starting this year. This can be your plastic bottle, a straw, grocery bag or even the takeaway container. You can easily replace this with sustainable options. Bring your reusable water bottle and straw. Use a jute or cotton bag for your groceries. Choose a takeaway that provides you with sustainable options.
2. Tell three people about the risk of not controlling the use of plastic. Ask them to pass this information on to three more people. This way, the more people are aware of the danger, the less pollution there will be. Follow Ocean Blue Project on social media where you will get all resources you need to stay updated.
3. Take part in three volunteer programs to save the ocean during 2021. You can clean up a beach or speak for the people who are raising these issues. If you wait for others to wake up, it will never be enough. Your sole effort may ensure a safe home for seabirds.
Like the Mariana Trench, there is still a vast area of the sea waiting to be discovered. Without researching more, it is tough to assume the exact amount of plastic floating in the ocean. But the number will be much higher than it already is for sure. So saving these beautiful beaches will never be simple work.
Not only will we have to either replace plastic products from our daily life. We will also have to recycle as much as we can.
After that, we have to work on retrieving the plastic that has already entered the ocean. This may seem like a long way, it definitely is not an impossible one.
Author Bio: Sanjida Parvin is an enviro-green blogger and writer who wants to see change in the world.