Unfortunately, how people treat and manage the planet’s natural resources, including oceanic waters, reveals a lot about humanity’s hypocrisy when it comes to environmental issues. People need to admire the five oceans’ tremendous beauty and the amazing biological diversity of oceanic life. However, they fail to do enough to prevent non-organic and slowly degradable substances, such as plastics, from entering the ocean. This results in the exacerbating problem of marine plastic pollution and the accumulation of plastic debris. Due to irresponsible consumption and plastics’ attractiveness for product manufacturers, plastic pollution in the ocean remains an urgent problem, and addressing it requires changing consumers’ attitudes to single-use plastic objects.
The Extent of Plastic Pollution Affecting the Oceans
To start with, the global scientific community acknowledges plastic pollution in the ocean as a large-scale and constantly exacerbating issue. Debris composition research focusing on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch reveals that the region’s water surface is currently “dominated by polyethylene and polypropylene pieces” (Lebreton et al. 10). It means that plastics outweigh any other natural or human-made objects in the garbage patch. While shedding light on the ubiquitous nature of ocean pollution, this finding highlights the specific role of plastic garbage in the global water pollution crisis. Additionally, based on the analysis of inter-annual variations and historical samples, Lebreton et al. conclude that plastic pollution in the ocean “is increasing exponentially” (1). Thus, it is reasonable to criticize the tendency to regard plastic in the ocean as an exaggerated environmental issue. Indeed, the abovementioned piece of research evidence emphasizes plastic objects’ unique role in exacerbating the environmental crisis in the future. The studies of ocean litter dynamics present a crucial source of information regarding the degree of contamination today and in the preceding centuries. According to such research, since the 20th century, oceanic dead zones that grow as a result of human activities, including plastic use, have quadrupled in size (Saeed and Malik 480). Following this logic, hypoxic oceanic areas will become catastrophically large in the future. This will happen if humanity does not develop a solution to be implemented globally. However, plastics’ attractiveness in the international market could postpone the problem’s resolution.
Contributors to Increasing Pollution
To continue, denying the problem’s existence is illogical since plastic objects’ properties and current consumption and waste disposal patterns make the issue almost inevitable. The cause-effect explorations of plastic pollution in the ocean list various economic factors, including the durability of plastics, as the key contributors to the ocean pollution crisis (De Matteis et al. 2)., when it comes to the food industry, there is a situation of high uncertainty regarding the exact moment of consumption. In these circumstances, giving preference to more expensive biodegradable packaging seems an a priori loss-generating decision. As a result, the “take, make, use and dispose of” model promotes the situation in which tons of plastic get into the ocean from the land (De Matteis et al. 2). What this information reveals is that the promotion of fast consumption without teaching plastic waste management principles to common citizens is conducive to the environmental crisis faced today. Consumers’ carelessness when it comes to waste disposal also adds to the problem. Also, plastic is utilized in single-use products, and this product type is “responsible for the largest share” of ocean pollution (De Matteis et al. 3). Thus, this material’s relatively low production costs contribute to its ubiquitous use. It inevitably increases the chances of its accumulation in the oceans. Therefore, considering how plastics are used, the issue cannot be overstated.
A Possible Solution: Promoting Consumer Consciousness
Furthermore, the problem can be solved by using campaigns, bans, and consumer warning labels to normalize the limited consumption of single-use plastic products. Firstly, the Skip the Straw movement has successfully popularized the avoidance of single-use plastic straws in the U.S. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). Based on this, environmental awareness campaigns can promote healthier plastic use habits, thus creating new social norms. Increases in consumer consciousness will result in reduced consumption of single-use plastic objects. Secondly, plastic packages with graphic images of oceanic pollution’s effects can motivate healthier plastic disposal practices (Pahl et al. 698). By analogy with graphic warning labels on cigarette packages, these measures can impact behaviors through emotional appeals. Being reminded of marine animals’ suffering, consumers will think twice before ignoring recycling guidelines. Thirdly, bans on plastic bags preceded by communication campaigns have improved the water pollution situation in the Philippines and other countries (Pahl et al. 698). With due preparation and consumer education measures, global plastic bag bans could pave the path to improvement. After establishing it as a new norm, it will be possible to restrict other plastic objects’ use. Therefore, efforts to establish responsible attitudes to plastic consumption as a new norm are likely to facilitate the issue’s resolution.
To sum up, as studies at the confluence of environmental sciences and economics demonstrate, plastic pollution in the ocean is among the urgent issues due to the increasing plastic debris and these materials’ cost-effectiveness for manufacturers. One potential solution for the plastic pollution crisis involves various measures, ranging from consumer education to banning plastic items. Hopefully, the promising efforts cited in the literature will replace consumerism with individual responsibility, thus reducing the amount of plastic waste that enters the oceans.
De Matteis, Alessandro, et al. “A Systemic Approach to Tackling Ocean Plastic Debris.” Environment Systems and Decisions, 2021, pp. 1-10. Web.
Lebreton, Laurent, et al. “Evidence that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is Rapidly Accumulating Plastic.” Scientific Reports, vol. 8, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1-15. Web.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Creating a Social Norm: A Student-Designed Program to Reduce Marine Debris.” NOAA, 2020, Web.
Pahl, Sabine, et al. “Channelling Passion for the Ocean towards Plastic Pollution.” Nature Human Behaviour, vol. 1, no. 10, 2017, pp. 697-699. Web.
Saeed, Farzeen, and Muhammad Faheem Malik. “Oceanic Pollution: A Threat to Life.” Pure and Applied Biology, vol. 11, no. 2, 2021, pp. 480-487. Web.