Eight million metric tons of plastic are leaking into our oceans every year. This cannot continue.
Plastic is everywhere. From beaches in Indonesia to the remotest Arctic, it is silently choking our planet. Plastic has contaminated the soil, rivers and oceans. Many of us are doing our part to reduce plastic pollution by recycling and reducing single-use items, but it’s just not enough. Governments must step up to take accountability and end this pollution epidemic.
ESSENTIAL QUESTION: How might plastic trash affect the ocean environment? Click this link to learn more about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
FROM SHORE TO SEA
Someone litters, or plastic trash blows out of a garbage can.
The plastic gets blown or washed into a storm drain.
It travels through sewers until it flows into waterways and out to sea where it can harm marine life.
Waves and heat from the sun break it into small pieces called microplastic.
In today’s world, plastic is everywhere. It’s found in shoes, clothing, household items, electronics, and more. There are different types of plastics, but one thing they all have in common is that they’re made of polymers—large molecules made up of repeating units. Their chemical structure gives them a lot of advantages: They’re cheap and easy to manufacture, lightweight, water-resistant, durable, and can be molded into nearly any shape.
Unfortunately, some of the same properties that make plastics great for consumer goods make them a problem pollutant. Plastic’s durability comes in part from the fact that unlike paper or wood, it doesn’t biodegrade, or break down naturally. “Instead it just fragments, or breaks into pieces over time,” says Jambeck. Those tiny pieces, known as microplastic, can potentially stick around for hundreds or perhaps even thousands of years.