Before starting this project I had a small amount of knowledge on plastics and how they affect our watersheds and the ocean. I had been in the natural science option at my school in grade 10 and we’d talked about how all our watersheds lead to the ocean and we watched a video on how our clothes shed microfibres in the wash. For me, this project allowed me to make the connections between these ideas and I finally realize now how this issue is so widespread. I understand the power of simple actions and how we all have a role to play in the plastic crisis. My eyes have been opened to how much I waste on a daily basis and how much truly is used unnecessarily. My actions not only affect me, they affect people down the river and even across the ocean on different continents because all the water on earth leads to one big ocean. My waste becomes everyone else's too. Even things like buying a razor and ordering takeout now make me aware of where there is room for improvement and how clueless I had been to the scale of impact plastic has. I even realize that potentially I am consuming the chemicals from plastic because there us so much in the ocean that organisms are either consuming it or consuming others that have ingested it. It leaches chemicals into their fat and even sometimes remains intact in their stomachs. It doesn’t just affect the ocean either. The same thing happens on land when it gets into the soil. Plants, animals, environments and humans are all poisoned by plastic. And for what? What I have learned most from this project is that we are so unaware of the problem and yet there is so much we can do about it. On average, each person uses about 200 plastic bags a year. If we stopped offering plastics bags we could save billions of bags from potentially ending up in the ocean. Only 5% of plastic is recycled worldwide. Imagine the difference it would make to give everyone access globally to recycling bins, depots and facilities. Even such a simple thing as buying used clothing or clothing made from organic materials would significantly shrink the volume of plastic microfibres entering the ocean on a daily basis. The first step towards making progress is to refuse single use plastic in the first place. By refusing to use single use plastics it will reduce the demand for their production. It is entirely possible to live a life free of single use plastics but the convenience of their everyday use makes that task seem impossible. What I am learning is that it takes a lot of initiative to reduce plastic use but that the experience is quite rewarding. Slowly, I’ve been making small changes and it has made me feel like I have power to create change (which, surprise! I do.)
After everything that I’ve learned through this experience I still have many questions. We talked a lot about living things and how living things are affected by plastic but we did not discuss how abiotic factors are shifted as much. How does the composition of soil/sand and rock change with exposure to plastic? Is cleaning possible? Since plastic affects the kinds of toxins entering the ocean does this affect the ocean current? Do weather patterns change as a result of excess plastic? What about plastic dishes? We briefly touched on the subject put I want to know more about the kind of plastics that could leach into food. How many micro plastics do they produce when being thrown in the dishwasher? I’m also curious about the recycling process. How much water and fossil fuels does it take to recycle products versus to make them from scratch? Is recycling sustainable or is it more of a temporary solution? I’m sure I will continue to find more questions and lines of inquiry on the topic of plastics in the ocean. Now that my interest has been piqued I know there is a lot more I can learn to help not only the ocean but the rest of the environment and everything living in it.