Editors’ note: All seventh-grade students were required to write an informational writing piece in English class during the spring semester. All pieces were then shared with the students in the grade anonymously, and the students chose eight pieces to submit to The Scroll for judging, also without the students’ names attached. The editors of The Scroll read all eight articles and chose what they considered to be the best three pieces based on strength of writing and organization of information.
By Sophia Bassi
Imagine this. You’ve finally come home from school, thirsty and hungry. After gulping down a bottle of water, you carelessly dump the plastic bottle into the trash and then lug your bag upstairs to do your homework. Have you ever stopped and thought of where that recklessly thrown away plastic goes? Did you ever realize that the plastic will end up in the ocean, killing millions of marine animals every single year?
According to Sybil Bullock in a 2018 Greenpeace article, in our oceans, there are currently five trillion pieces of plastic, which is enough to circle the Earth over 400 times. Kathleen Dohan, a scientist and the president of Earth and Space Research in Seattle said, “It’s a good time for people to understand that our oceans are garbage dumps.”
This growing amount of plastic in our oceans harms the marine life, where nearly 700 species have been affected by it. What are our plastic-filled oceans becoming?
What is plastic pollution, and how does it affect the marine life?
Plastic pollution is when plastic pollutes the Earth’s environments and oceans. Since plastic has been an extremely useful and cheap resource since the late 1950s, many companies mass produce it. As stated by Laura Parker in a 2018 Sirs Article, its production has grown immensely over the past decades from 2.3 million tons of plastic produced in the 1950s to 448 million tons in 2015.
Some of this plastic is single use or disposable, meaning that the plastic is designed to be disposed of after one use, while some people also dispose of reusable and recyclable plastic. Out of the 9.2 billion tons of plastic produced, more than 6.9 billion tons have become waste, and 6.3 billion tons never got recycled.
After this staggeringly large amount of plastic is disposed of, most of it is carelessly dumped into landfills and areas of the Earth. Following this, the plastic is blown away and finds its way into the ocean, where over time the plastic gets weathered down into microplastics, very small fragments of plastic. In the ocean, the marine life find the microplastics and harmfully ingest it, which can lead to their deaths.
Does plastic have any benefits?
Despite the many harms of plastic explained above, plastic is an extremely useful resource with many beneficial traits. Due to its strength, low cost, durability, and moldability, our society thrives on plastic and its many uses. Comparing plastic to metal, another material alternative, plastic is much lighter, which leads to a lower cost. According to ‘Metal Vs. Plastic: 5 Key Comparisons’ by Productive Plastics, currently thermoplastic can be as strong or stronger than metal, and most plastics are less stiff than metals. To add to this, plastic has a much shorter production time process compared to metal. Due to plastic outperforming other materials like this, plastic is used in packaging, transportation, energy efficiency, sports, medicine, and electronics, as stated by Connecticut Plastics. To name a few of these, plastic packaging helps food stay fresh longer, many car parts are made from plastic, cables/electronic cords are made of plastic, and many more.
What is being done to help plastic pollution, and how can you help?
As plastic pollution is a current crisis, there have been many global attempts to help solve the problem, and there are many ways others can make a difference too. Currently, many places in the world are banning plastic. In addition, corporations are making more recyclable products, and many individuals and groups are creating organizations and campaigns to raise awareness against plastic pollution. Ways that you can help with the plastic pollution crisis are by doing the following:
- Going to beach cleanups, where you help clean up the plastic washed up on beaches next to the oceans.
- Remembering to recycle and reuse more. This will allow the plastic to be either turned into a new product (recycling) or will allow the product to be used more than once (reusing). These are alternatives to the disposing of the plastic.
- Lastly, you can also start or join a campaign protesting to place more bans on plastic or to raise awareness on the topic.
In conclusion, it is clear that even though plastic has many benefits, it is currently impacting our Earth and its oceans negatively. It is also evident how the world has made an effort to help reduce plastic pollution and how others can help solve the problem. However, now that more and more plastic is being produced and the crisis is growing larger, the world needs everyone to be involved to prevent the plastic from overtaking our oceans. Even the smallest actions have an impact on our Earth.