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Earth Day: Oceans Becoming 'Plastic Soup'

According to some estimates, oceans could contain more plastics than fish by 2050. (Jill Clardy/Adobe Stock)
According to some estimates, oceans could contain more plastics than fish by 2050. (Jill Clardy/Adobe Stock)
April 22, 2019

SEATTLE – It's Earth Day, and one manufactured menace threatening the world's oceans is plastics.

While estimates vary, many scientific studies find that about 8 million metric tons of plastic make their way into the ocean each year.

Michiel Abbing, author of the book "Plastic Soup", is a member of an organization of the same name, which derives from the large garbage patch found in the Pacific Ocean in 1997.

The foundation began fighting to keep plastics out of the ocean eight years ago, and Abbing says the issue has continued unabated.

"Since 2011, awareness has risen a lot,” he states. “A lot of NGOs, politicians and organizations are involved but, despite that fact, it seems to worsen instead of improving the situation."

Abbing notes that the fracking boom in the United States is pushing more petroleum into the market, which is a source of plastics.

Since the Plastic Soup Foundation began its mission, more has been discovered about the material's prevalence.

Last week, a study found microplastics have been "raining down" on a secluded area of France, 75 miles from the nearest town.

Research still is investigating the health effects of plastic on humans, but its harmful traces are well-documented, including on plankton and sea turtles.

Over the last month, whales have washed up on the shores of Italy and the Philippines with pounds of undigestible plastic in their stomachs.

Abbing says the simple solution is that we must reduce our production of plastics and adds that everyone has a role to play.

"We are all responsible for this, not only the consumers that buy plastic and throw it away, but also the producers and the politicians,” he states.
“We created the mess and we should solve the mess together."

The Plastic Soup Foundation has launched initiatives encouraging people to reduce their use of plastics, replacing them with reusable bags, cups and other utensils.

It also notes that synthetic fibers in clothing are a major source of plastic that gets into the ocean while washing clothes.

The Ocean Clean Wash initiative suggests folks use liquid soap and fabric softener and wash at a low temperature.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA