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Marine debris—largely plastic—has become a major global environmental issue. Every year, approximately 8 million metric tons of plastic waste degrade, fragment, and eventually enter different marine ecosystems. Sadly, less than 10% of all of the plastic ever produced has been recycled, and the majority of it ends up in the sea. The effect of marine debris on our planet’s health and human health is devastating.
Overview of the Issue
Marine debris is made of both biodegradable and non-biodegradable material that enters marine ecosystems primarily through river outflow and land-based sources. A common form of marine debris is plastic, which does not biodegrade, instead breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces over time. This poses a serious threat to our human and planet’s health as plastic can take up to 1,000 years to degrade.
Due to the long degradation period, plastic pollutes our oceans, rivers, and land. Marine debris is harmful to our environment and human health as it impacts marine life, contaminates drinking water, and contributes to global climate change.
Tips for Reducing Marine Debris
- Refuse single-use plastic: Avoid the purchase and use of single-use plastic items such as straws, grocery bags, and water bottles.
- Reduce, reuse, and recycle: Reduce the amount of trash going into landfills and the ocean by reusing items whenever possible, and recycling paper, plastic, and other materials.
- Dispose of trash properly: Properly dispose of trash to help prevent it from ending up in the ocean or on land.
- Support policy initiatives: Support legislation efforts to reduce the use of single-use plastics, such as bans or taxes on plastic bags.
- Spread awareness: Spread the word about the importance of reducing marine debris and its impacts on human health and the environment.
Impact on Human Health
The effects of marine debris on human health are serious and wide-ranging. Plastic debris from marine sources has been found in seafood, reducing its quality and potentially causing health problems. Ingestion of plastic particles can lead to gastrointestinal illnesses and have been linked to cardiovascular disease and cancer in humans. Marine debris also releases pollutants into the ocean, which can be toxic to aquatic life and eventually accumulate in our food chain, making it unsafe for human consumption.
In addition to health risks, marine debris can also cause physical injury to people who come into contact with it in the ocean or on beaches. It can also damage coastal habitats and reduce biodiversity, which can lead to decreases in livelihoods, recreational activities, and tourism.
Marine debris is a major global issue, having serious impacts on human health, wildlife, the environment, the economy, and more. The good news is that everyone can take action to reduce their contribution of marine debris. By refusing single-use plastic items, reducing, reusing, and recycling, disposing of trash properly, supporting policy initiatives, and spreading awareness, we can all help reduce the amount of plastic entering our oceans and making its way into our food chain.
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