A powerful Washington Post editorial last week supported a bipartisan call by several senators to address the crisis of plastic pollution in our oceans. “Without change,” the senators warned, “there will be more plastic by weight than fish in the oceans by 2050.”
That’s devastating news. We see the signs – the toxic plastic stew swirling at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and every kind of discarded plastic lining our popular beaches – but it’s still hard to imagine an ocean with more plastic than fish.
The thing is, plastic is breaking down into such small pieces, especially after long exposure to sunlight, that scientists describe it as a soup. Turns out, the plastic we use in everyday life on land – like bottles, cups and bags – is susceptible to environmental degradation but is not biodegradable. The resulting “microplastic” particles “enter (marine) animals’ bodies, killing the animals immediately or entering marine food chains,” the WaPo editors say. These particles in aggregate also “block sunlight from supporting plankton and other backbone ecosystem species.”
It’s one thing to see trash in the ocean. It’s another to think the volume will soon outweigh fish.
The bipartisan group of senators has introduced a bill (Save Our Seas 2.0) that would overhaul the country’s recycling infrastructure, create a fund to respond to “marine debris events — like a container ship accident,” and finance research about ways to turn used plastic into other useful things. Let’s support this effort – and any other meaningful proposals for change.
Dig deeply here.