Plastic

Plastic debris is a fast-growing, visible, and frightening pollutant in the Pacific Ocean. While plastic inventions only just peaked in the 1930s, hundreds of thousands of strains of plastics have been discovered to date. With all these different kinds of plastics, the majority of man-made materials are produced with the non-biodegradable product. The ocean is riddled with plastic and it is thought that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans[1].

©Troy Mayne 2015

The main concern with plastic debris is the danger to marine life such as the green sea turtle found dead on a beach in 2011. Researchers preformed a necropsy on the juvenile turtle and found hundreds of plastic pieces in its stomach. These jagged plastic pieces that the turtle accidentally mistook as food, can cause damage to organs while also blocking the digestive tract and causing starvation[2]. The turtles living near the Hawaiian Islands were especially susceptible to death by plastic because their favorite food, jellyfish, highly resembles a plastic bag. Green sea turtles are a keystone species in Hawaii’s ecosystem; if their numbers dwindle further than they already have, Hawaii’s whole marine habitat will face utter turmoil. While the endangered green sea turtle is the state of Hawaii’s main focus right now, plastic has been  found to affect 267 species around the world, making this an issue that every corner of the Earth should be thinking about.

To aid in the endangered sea turtles’ come back, the state of Hawaii became the first in the United States to ban plastic bags at all retail checkouts in July, 2015. This was done at the county level, and one by one each island of the Hawaiian archipelago had grocery stores that were free of plastic bags. This will drastically reduce the amount of local plastic entering the ocean every day and hopefully save countless sea turtles from a plastic related death.

Until further trash prevention and clean up happens, the Hawaiian archipelago is faced with a trash epidemic. Even though The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tried to keep critical parts of the ocean clear by removing fifty-seven tons of plastic debris from the Hawaiian Islands in 2014, the issue still persists. Because of where they are located geographically, the Hawaiian beaches are at jeopardy of losing their pristine image as more and more trash is brought to the islands via ocean currents. Not only does plastic have a detrimental effect on the crucial marine animals that call the archipelago home, the problem will eventually hinder the fate of the islands’ tourism and economy, effecting the islands’ overall way of life.

 

[1] Sarah Kaplan, “By 2050, There Will Be More Plastic than Fish in the World’s Oceans, Study Says,” The Washington Post, January 20, 2016

[2] Fiona Macrae, “Killed by Pollution: Hundreds of Pieces of Plastic Found Inside Stomach of Sea Turtle,” Daily Mail (Associated Newspapers LTD), March 24, 2011