Plastic waste has ended up in our oceans, affected marine species and even resulted in death for some. Yearly, about 100,000 sea creatures are found dead due to entanglement in plastic, and there are likely many more that are never found. Researchers also estimate that there are nearly 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean, about 269,000 tons of which is on the surface. In the Pacific Ocean alone, there exists a mass of plastic waste the size of Europe! Plastic items decompose at different rates, for instance a milk jug takes approximately 1 million years and a cup about 80 years. This presents health risks for all of us.
That’s not the end of the story. Plastic microbeads, found in such products as toothpaste and cleansers, slip through wastewater treatment plants, ending up in our other water bodies. These particles stay with us for longer than most of our lifetimes, contaminating our waterways. Fish tend to mistake these micro plastics for plankton and consume them as food. This is one way that plastics end up in our food—through seafood.
We will not achieve a world without plastic but we can become discerning consumers and make intentional choices to minimize how much we use them. We have it within our ability to turn to a life with less waste, a life with more conscientious consumerism.