OPINION: We are what we eat; the ocean too

Plastic Pieces, with Drew Rogers

HOW important do you think our oceans are to our planets health?

Metaphorically let's say they are to the earth what our stomachs are to us.

The more junk we put into our stomachs the worse our health, like pollution in the ocean and planet earths' health. Just as our diets play an important role in our moods and behaviours, so too does the oceans diet in our planets weather patterns.

If you had a stomach full of plastic you wouldn't have much hope of surviving. However dramatic it may be, couldn't the same logic adhere to the health of planet earth?

There have been rumours floating around for the past 10 years or so of massive islands of plastic getting about in our oceans. Islands I was told you could possibly build on!?

I'm going to set the record straight and let you know right now, that's not true. To be honest they are more like a plastic soup.

These plastic soups occur at each of the largest oceans 5 gyres (big swirling masses where ocean currents meet) where plastic gets trapped in the vortex.

They mainly consist of pieces of plastic no greater than 4mm that continually breakdown due to the process of photodegradation (being exposed to the sun) hence creating what is described as a 'soup'.

Last year after a five-year study the 5 Gyres Institute estimated there are approximately 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic floating on the surface of our oceans.

That's somewhere around 4000 pieces per km2 or 250,000 tonnes in weight. A 'Science Journal' study this year found that of the 275 million tonnes of plastic produced in 2010, up to 12 million tonnes went into the ocean. That's just one year!

When we look at these findings it seems our oceans have suffered too long from an out of sight out of mind societal habit with plastic waste.

Recycling systems to collect this waste will always come and go. And as much as we hope these systems achieve great things, ignorantly letting others deal with our ongoing problems is not sustainable practice for our natural environment or us.

Next time you're at the beach on a holiday, morning walk or surf trip and pick up that piece of plastic, stop and spare a thought for how many pieces there are in the ocean.

After all, our oceans do provide us with most of the air we breathe, so effectively you are poisoning yourself.

Let that thought influence your next plastic purchases for when you drink that bottle of water remember it's the planet that stomachs it.



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