Impacts Of Ocean Plastic Pollutants

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The first decade of 21st century has produced more plastic than the whole of the years before the start of this century [1]. Most of the plastic are single use materials, which get dumped into the ocean after their purpose. Great Pacific Garbage Patch is one of the active regions of plastic accumulation in the ocean. Every year nearly 15-51 trillion pieces of plastic enter the ocean and began to stay there forever [1]. These plastics affect the marine life to a greater extent. Several species of aquatic life are in the endangered list and few have become extinct. Many scientists have focused their interest on collecting the existing waste from the ocean, among them- ‘Sea bins’, a device invented by two Australian men has proved to be effective, and also making it at affordable cost.[2] This project will focus on the solutions to the plastic pollution problem and assess the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) impacts of major pollutant “plastic bags”. A comparative study on recycling of plastic is also a part of the report.

Plastic pollution is rising as a top challenge to ocean ecosystems. By 2025, there will be more than 1 ton of used plastic for every three heaps of fish in the ocean. Each year, almost trillions of tons of dumped waste is making its way out into oceans. In addition to garbage waste dumped by industries into ocean waters these type toxic chemicals may end up consisting of radioactive chemicals which may kill a small kind of ocean animals.[3]

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Plastics play a vital role in the packaging industry. The future of plastic bags in the sustainability point of view is highly questionable. The properties of low weight to good strength, water resistant and cost effectiveness has made plastic bags the preferred choice of packaging material. However, the life cycle impacts of plastics are on a high note making environment governing agencies to focus on the standards of their production, usage and disposal. The production of plastics creates impact on the usage of non-renewable resources, reduced recycle rate and ecological impact created during the disposal process. Improper disposal techniques of ocean dumping, landfilling and burning multiples the adverse impact on the environment on a larger scale. Several countries have imposed taxes and regulation standards on manufacturers, retailers and consumers to mitigate the usage of plastics and the effect of the impact.

Life Cycle Assessment is carried out to estimate the environmental impacts based on the Inputs required to produce a product and the output generated during its operation throughout its life cycle. It is performed based on Standards which gives information of methodology, agreement for carrying out the analysis. The report from LCA is primarily quantitative, which can be directly used to assess the impacts on different basis such as environmental, health, atmospheric emission, climate change parameters. The LCA system does suffer limitations as it does not consider the entire real time processes, the system boundaries and several assumptions must made for the processes that happens place in the life cycle of a product. Therefore, it is quantitatively an approximation of the realistic scenario. Triple Bottom Line (TBL) is a concept of evaluating the impact that a product makes on the environmental, social and economic aspects. The primarily used single use plastic material is High-density polyethylene (HDPE). Most commonly used alternative materials for HDPE are Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Solutions to tackle ocean pollution is addressed and the Impacts of the pollutants is discussed in the report.

Several approaches have been made to reduce the plastic pollution at the cradle stage. The need for a cost effective and eco friendly way of removing plastics is of major concern.

Some of the ways of reducing ocean pollution are

Reduced use of Single-use plastics:

The easiest and most direct way to mitigate plastic pollution is by decreasing the use of single- use plastics. This encompasses plastic bags, water bottles, straws, cups, utensils, dry cleaning bags, take-out containers, and plastic gadgets that are used and then discarded with a short life span.[4]

However, in certain cases the usage if unavoidable due to the lifestyle practices that have evolved over time. The next focus is on recycling the plastics manufactured.

Seabins:

The Seabins are very compact and can be placed in the docks and marinas without obstructing the movement of boats. The plastic waste is collected and disposed easily through the waste disposal system.

The Seabin is attached to the floating dock and is freely suspended in the water. A shore pump is installed on the dock to create a water flow around the seabin. All floating wastes move towards the seabin along with the water flow. The waste is collected in a fibre material bag from which the water is pumped out through the bottom and the water is then let out into the marina.

Seabins are currently established at 719 locations and on average 1.9 tons of waste is captured each day. A major belt of seabins are established around the European shores. They are effective in capturing particles of sizes ranging from 2mm. With the advancement to include oil pad technology, it is possible to skim oil and other liquid pollutants from the marinas.[5]

Recycling:

This is one of the best ways to reduce plastic pollution. Only 9% of the total used plastics are currently recycled globally. Recycling helps to wipeout plastics out of the ocean and to reduce circulation of 'fresh' plastic.[4]

Most beverage and liquid cleaner bottles are Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is widespread among the curbside recycling companies. Containers marked (HDPE) likewise there are some codes which are additionally recyclable in some areas.

Products containing tiny plastic particles, known as 'microbeads,' have grown to be a developing supply of ocean plastic pollution in recent years. Microbeads are discovered in some face scrubs, toothpaste, and physique washes, and they enter the oceans and waterways through our sewer systems ad affect lots of marine species. To avoid this, measures must be undertaken to reduce usage of merchandise containing plastic micro beads via looking for 'polyethylene' and “polypropylene' on the ingredient labels of your cosmetic products.[4]

Social awareness:

Spreading the information makes a lot of difference when it comes to social development which relates everyone contribution, this will help solving problems related to plastic air pollution and helping others to make them conscious of the problem

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and Polypropylene (PP) bags exhibited less environmental impacts than HDPE bags which are primarily one-time use plastics. Further observation of the analysis revealed that the advantage of using PET and PP bags is most favorable when the number of times of usage is high. Comparatively, the impact of reusable bags is lesser only when they are used the assumed 104 times a year, else the impact of single use bags is lower than PP and PET. This comparison is invalid for paper bags.[6]

The impact on environment by single use bags is only low when a specific category of impact assessment is selected. Except for Eutrophication category, single use paper bags did the most impact on the environment.

Risks and recomendations

Many creatures that live deep inside the ocean has been affected through the effect of pollutants. It can be challenging to determine unique statistics on air pollution and its effects on our ocean existence due to the large dimension of the ocean and the kind of animals involved. However, some fascinating studies have been performed in smaller parts of the ocean with marine existence.

For instance, a review of a research article published on the marine academe's oceanography website shows there had been over 46000 objects of plastic floating on the northeastern coast of United States of America in each rectangular mile of the ocean. Over 100000 marine mammals and hundreds of thousands of seabirds die each year due to the fact of this plastic.

According to a publication through the center for biological diversity, about 82,000 birds of 102 species have been affected or even killed after the Gulf of Mexico's petroleum oil spill also killed 36 sea mammals, 279 sea turtles, and 68 sea birds and many fish as of midjune2010[3]

The surroundings can pay a heavy rate on daily 'fast fashion' habits, many industries like fabric industry regularly decompose waterways with dyes and waste products, then washing our artificial apparel releases plastic microfibers into the ocean. Growing and planting cotton will improve the production of t-shirts which requires up to 700 gallons of water every time to clean up the products. Marine systems and environment are not only affected by pollution but also by mankind activities. Every day, different kinds of toxic chemical compounds are entering our oceans. These poisonous chemical compounds have either been dumped by many chemical industries on purpose with a lot of other sources or goes naturally with the flow of the land then to rivers and lakes, however, finally ends up into oceans.

Chemicals such as oil, mercury, lead, pesticides, and other heavy metals can contaminate water materials and our food chain by affecting the ocean life. If human beings are unprotected from these kinds of toxic chemicals, they may end up in risky fitness problems, which include hormonal issues, reproductive problems, injury to our kidney system.

Effects on the food chain:

Chemicals used in industries and agriculture get washed into the rivers. These chemicals compound now get dissolved and sink at the bottom of the ocean. Small animals ingest these chemicals and are later eaten by large animals, which then affects the entire marine food chain. [9]

Effect on the economy:

Ocean pollution not only affects human and wildlife but also affect the global economy. Every greenback spent on defending sources of drinking water saves in water treatment costs.

Many people in the world are attracted towards ocean or beach tourist places and by plastic pollution there is lose in its cleanliness, as a result tourism enterprise loses shut to $1 billion every year. There are losses in fishing and boating activities, as a result of water bodies that have been affected with nutrient pollution and hazardous algal blooms. Nutrient pollution can additionally affect visibility at popular outdoor locations like countrywide parks [10]

Effects on wildlife:

There are different kinds of pollutants to the ocean, but oil spills cause more damage to marine life. The oil spilled in the ocean will slowly touch the depth of ocean and then on to the gills of marine animals, which makes it challenging for them to breathe. The long-time period impact on marine lifestyles can consist of cancer, failure in both reproductive and digestive systems can

also lead to severe death.[9]

Best practices to avoid risks:

1.Using technology and innovation:

Reversing the harmful effects created by the pollution in oceans and seas might take a lot of time and resources. Here are some of the professional groups and industries healing our seas through innovation and technology.

Call Wave Power Technologies generate the energy of the ocean through developing a wave- type electricity converter in the shape of synthetic seafloor. As a choice source of energy, this company has the capability to provide electricity for almost 50 million homes without affecting natural resources.[11]

Loliware is a bioplastic start-up with a mission. Founders Chelsea brigantine a Leigh ann. Tucker envision a future where the plastic straws will be changed through 100% plant-based hyper- compostable and marine-degradable straws.[11]

There is also an ocean cleanup system which is cleaning up the great pacific garbage patch by using a 600-meter long floater. It is fixed at the water floor and has a tapered 3-meter depth skirt injected below and with funding of almost $2.5 billion from 160 countries. [11]

2.Recycling:

Almost 40 to 50% of plastic pollution can be solved by recycling the used products in reusable things. To be precise every plastic used can't be recycled but most of them can be done if there is proper concern towards natural damage of the environment. In addition to that, a recent national study found that more than 90% of North Americans can recycle plastic bottles in their communities.

Conclusion

The LCA of the major plastic pollutant (plastic bag) helped reveal many vital information regarding the Triple Bottom Line impacts. The comparison of HDPE plastic bags with PP and PET bags (reusable bags) showed that the environmental impact is lower for reusable bags thus providing additional advantage to reusable bags but with the condition that the reusable bags are used specific number of times. The use of seabin technology is highly eco friendly and affordable. Higher successful rates have been observed in European countries. Their installation could save millions of marine lives from extinction. The LCA analysis provided visual proof to the beliefs based on person insights that paper bags are bio-degradable and renewable source of packaging material hence would generate lower impact is false. Single use paper bags create a larger impact on the environment than recyclable Plastics. Focusing on reusable plastics thus help reduce the generation of plastic wastes which are improperly dumped into the ecosystems in which most of the dumping happens to be in the ocean. Creating awareness on usage of recyclable plastics is only beneficial when the reusable bags are used at least the minimum number of times else would result in higher environmental impacts.

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Impacts Of Ocean Plastic Pollutants. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 21, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/impacts-of-ocean-plastic-pollutants/
“Impacts Of Ocean Plastic Pollutants.” Edubirdie, 15 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/impacts-of-ocean-plastic-pollutants/
Impacts Of Ocean Plastic Pollutants. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/impacts-of-ocean-plastic-pollutants/> [Accessed 21 Jun. 2024].
Impacts Of Ocean Plastic Pollutants [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 15 [cited 2024 Jun 21]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/impacts-of-ocean-plastic-pollutants/
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