7 STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TO FIGHT POLLUTION
70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by oceans. And over 40% of those oceans are littered with plastic. Marine plastic isn’t just ruining the natural beauty of our seas—it’s causing damage to wildlife and the environment on a global scale. We need to take action now. The silver lining is that we can do something to combat the marine plastic problem. Here’s how to get started.
3 MAJOR SOURCES OF MARINE PLASTIC POLLUTION
Oceans are the biggest, most vibrant ecosystems on planet Earth, containing tens of thousands of species and producing half the oxygen we breathe. Sadly, oceans are also our most threatened ecosystems—polluted by plastic waste that endangers not just marine life, but those of us on dry land. Scientists estimate that each year over eight million tons of plastic are dumped into the oceans. It’s a staggering number to wrap your head around. So how does that figure break down?
INDUSTRIAL PLASTIC: Industry has a huge role to play in the plastic problem. Worldwide, plastic packaging and textiles account for well over 100 million tons of pollution each year. That’s why at adidas we are always looking for ways to reduce our plastic footprint.
MICROPLASTIC: Marine plastic pollution isn’t just terrible for ecosystems, it’s also a major eyesore. But some of the worst pollution is invisible. That’s the case with plastic microbeads, which are found in cosmetics and other products. Just one shower with a shampoo containing microbeads can send 100,000 plastic particles into the ocean.
CONSUMER PLASTIC: This is where you come in. Consumer plastic is the kind we use in our everyday lives: bottles, bags, straws, takeout containers, and much more. A plastic bag has an average “working life” of a mere 12 minutes, and once it’s thrown away, that bag can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. Worldwide, an estimated 1 trillion single-use plastic bags are produced every year, and less than 1% of those are recycled. Millions end up in the ocean.
WHY WE NEED TO PROTECT THE OCEANS
The immediate threat from plastic pollution is to the species that call the oceans home. Thousands of marine animals are killed each year because they mistake plastic waste for food and choke on it, or get tangled in it as it floats by.
But marine life isn’t the only kind that suffers as the oceans fill with human-made pollution. Erosive plastics such as polystyrene (Styrofoam) are known to release harmful toxins as they break into smaller pieces in the oceans. As a result, mercury and other alarming pollutants have been found in seafood at increased concentrations. The extent of the threat to food safety remains unclear, but we know that mercury can cause major problems for human health—from organ damage to childhood development issues.
New research has also found a link between marine plastic and climate change. As trash floats around in our oceans, taking hundreds of years to decompose, it releases powerful greenhouse gases. These gases—including methane and ethylene—are thought to be a major contributor to the degradation of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Thankfully, there are measures we can take to start healing our oceans. In isolation these lifestyle changes might have limited impact, but if we all do our part, we can genuinely make a difference.