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Plastic Waste in the Oceans

Plastic in the Oceans

The problem of plastic waste in the oceans has become an internationally known environmental problem. Plastic and its decomposition products accumulate and coalesce into a significant densification in the ocean's currents. The North Pacific Gyre has already received the nickname Great Pacific garbage patch, which corresponds approximately to the size of Western Europe. And that's not the only one! The "Great Pacific Garbage Patch", for example, is located between California and Hawaii. One of the biggest problems of these "garbage carpets" is that in contrast to "plastic landfills" on the beach, they are not noticeable, since they usually float a few feet below the surface of the water.

The plastics in the sea are relatively quickly dispersed into smaller and smaller pieces by tides and wave action and partly by exposure to light and, through the release of the plasticizers, become brittle and fragile as well. They then decompose to powder-small segments, which are then ingested by fish, marine mammals and other marine life; bags, PET bottles, foam remnants, packaging, disposable razors, buckets, etc.; finely ground pieces, below the water surface. Starting with plankton organisms themselves, smaller fragments and released chemicals are absorbed and colonized, and this way, climb up in the food chain. Thus, the plastic garbage, enriched with toxins, ultimately gets into the food for human consumption.

In the ocean currents our waste products of civilization accumulate. According to information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists and the Sea Education Association (SEA), there has been no accurate estimate of the size of these areas and it is believed that 70 percent of the plastic waste drops to the seabed. Estimates for the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch lie at one million particles of plastic per square kilometer. Approx. 100 million tons of plastic waste are thus in the Garbage Patch.

The effects of plastic debris on marine ecosystems are immeasurable, especially of larger parts that hurt big fish and marine mammals, and they can become a trap. Fish and dolphins often remain trapped in dumped fishing nets, birds mistake the debris for food, and whales and dolphins eat the waste.

About 80% of the plastic waste reaches the sea by our rivers; about one-fifth comes from ship-generated waste dumped aboard or loss of cargo such as 60,000 sneakers of the freighter Hansa Carrier and 29,000 toy animals of the freighter Tokyo Express. Approximately every three years, portions of these lost goods, arrive in Alaska. Also Tsunamis such as after the Tohoku earthquake in 2011 spread all kinds of non-biodegradable items in the sea through which a carpet has arisen greater than Germany.

The disposal of waste at sea is now prohibited, and the disposal of waste in ports free. However, the prohibition to dispose of household waste by rivers into the sea is so far only an aspiration, and difficult to implement, especially in certain regions. And although many packaging manufacturers now rely more and more on plastics, biologically more easily degradable, and environmentally friendly polymers, additives and fillers, still more than 225 million tons of plastic around the world are produced each year.



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