Our Plastic Waste Crisis and How Simple Choices Can Heal the Oceans

Our Plastic Waste Crisis and How Simple Choices Can Heal the Oceans

Guest Blog: By Chase Maser, @PSPoets

To celebrate our recent partnership with PATH the pspoets team thought it would be a great idea to share our insight about the issue of plastic waste and how each person plays an important role in finding a solution. 

Human beings have an unyielding desire to make an impact on the world. Whether it's through artistic expression, professional development, or helping out a friend, there is a longing for connection that fuels personal progress in ourselves and within our surroundings. For me, my greatest hope is that writing can share an idea of how to live harmoniously with others, and more importantly, how we can help support the environment in a way that allows it to thrive. 

Last year, I was commissioned to write an article for a wonderful non-profit called Overture Global. The idea I pitched was an article about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch floating in the Pacific ocean between Hawaii and California. After it was approved, I did some research and discovered that plastic waste is a terrible pandemic in dire need of a solution. Thankfully, many global projects are in place to manage and remove plastic debris, but to really make a change, what's needed is an active reshaping of how we view and express ourselves to the world.

Meaningful transformation takes place when you reinforce your thoughts, words, and actions with a positive outlook, so to help inspire your role in creating a better future, here are a few things to consider about plastic waste and how your life can heal the oceans: 

How Bad is the Plastic Waste Issue?

If you're unfamiliar with how widespread plastic waste is around the globe, then here is a rundown of the article I wrote last year to gain some perspective:

Located between California and Hawaii, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) is a gyre of plastic waste occupying a square footage twice the size of Texas. Researchers have estimated the area to consist of nearly 1.8 trillion individual pieces. This figure is a wake-up call to the devastation inflicted upon marine life, but how can organizations eradicate an issue so widespread? How much would it cost to make an impact?

On a global scale, plastic pollutants and damage to marine environments cost $13 Billion (USD) annually. This accounts for destroyed ecosystems, tourism, and losses suffered by fisheries and other organizations who manage cleanup efforts. When it comes to implementing plans for wide-scale cleanups, the price tag skyrockets. Currently, the cheapest way to conduct research or extract plastics from the GPGP is by boat. Shipping vessels attach surface nets to their stern and drag it along the designated area. A nonprofit called Project Kaisei utilizes this approach to haul plastic debris to facilities that transform it into reusable oil. Also, in 2015, a“Mega Expedition" was done by The Ocean Cleanup that consisted of 30 vessels pulling 652 surface nets across the GPGP, and yet, only 1.2 million pieces of debris were obtained. Many of these vessels volunteered to assist with the project, but here is an example of the cost and time of a ship undergoing a similar operation:

A ship with an 18ft beam (width across) setting out to clean an area of less than 1% of the Pacific ocean—396,102 sq mi—for a period of 10 hours a day at 12.5 mph would take 67 years to remove waste in that area. To expedite the cleanup, consider 67 ships following the same routine for a year. With an estimated cost of $20,000 (USD) a day per boat, totals reach nearly $500 million (USD) annually—not including the cost of equipment or labor. It’s unrealistic to generate that kind of manpower for an extended period, but one organization is creating new ways to remove debris that are more cost-effective.

The Ocean Cleanup has introduced an operation called the Ocean Cleanup Array. Floating barriers are placed within concentrated zones of plastic debris, and using ocean currents; waste is captured for removal every 45 days. Estimations show that this approach will be 33 times cheaper than traditional methods. Over a 10-year period, these barriers will extract a projected 42% of the debris within the GPGP, totaling a cost of $390 million (USD). Annually, estimated costs equal $6.2 million (USD)—a more affordable option in the long run. 

Although these projections seem viable, The Ocean Cleanup has faced some scrutiny in terms of their overall research. Deep Sea News—a peer-reviewed scientific forum—concludes that areas of the operation are unclear: "The feasibility study still has major technical issues that must be addressed before such a large-scale project is truly functional" (Martini). In particular, the concerns are centered around the fluctuating speeds of ocean currents, the likelihood, and impact of biofouling (the growth of marine life upon the debris field), and the ultimate cost incurred by shipping vessels during transportation and removal of the equipment. Despite these challenges, the Ocean Cleanup has pledged full transparency with their findings, and new research is being done throughout the stages of implementation. 

Since corporations in the U.S. alone net $400 billion a year from plastics, it’s unlikely that a separation from it will occur. In the meantime, citizens must try to eliminate single-use plastics and instill proper recycling habits. Other countries around the world—France, Kenya, Costa Rica—are leading initiatives to create a sustainable planet, and larger nations must follow to see major progress.  

How Can I Help Clean Up the Oceans?

Even though it may seem like an impossible task, you have a much larger impact on the problem than you may think. 

From a personal standpoint, the very way you live your life can reverberate and change the lives of others. For example, if you start carrying around a mason jar to hold your beverages, then your friends will take notice and consider the alternative for themselves. If you write a poem about preserving the beauty of nature in all its forms and share it at a public reading, everyone who hears it will be affected and contemplate their own relationship with the integrity of the world. This is what I mean by using your life to promote awareness for causes that matter. You embrace a lifestyle of sustainability that others can appreciate, and by projecting those good thoughts, habits, and actions into your reality, you will engage with others and create a collective movement toward the better.

In fact, these life changes relate to just about everything you do. As a way to enhance your human experience, you must embrace a lifestyle that puts your hopes and dreams at the forefront of your existence. If you want to be a better writer, then create a lifestyle that supports your writing. If you want to make more time for family, then use your life to make them a priority. To eliminate plastic waste and heal the planet, all you need to do is express your love for the earth and champion its condition by setting a great example.  

Drink PATH to Make a Difference

Of course, implementing all the changes you want to make can't be done overnight, but you can take small steps that set everything in motion.

By purchasing a PATH aluminum bottle, you instantly cut down on tons of plastic waste that would further damage the condition of the planet. Single-use plastics, such as straws, cups, utensils, water bottles, and containers will continue to wreak havoc on the environment unless we transition to purpose-driven solutions that can be easily recycled when the time comes. 

Not only does PATH provide a reusable option with prolonged benefits, but they also use locally-sourced water outlets with advanced reverse osmosis techniques to provide the cleanest drinking water with the least amount of resources put in. Every purchase allows for a safe way to live harmoniously with the world in modern times, and pspoets is proud to support such a vital necessity. 

To learn more about PATH or pspoets, feel free to visit each site and connect with us to discover more ways of how you can get involved. Together, we can guide the world in a sustainable direction, and we can certainly accomplish the dreams we hold in our hearts.   
This blog was first published at PSPoets.
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