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Island of garbage continues to destroy ecosystem

by Brianna Bush - Executive Editor
Tue, Sep 17th 2019 10:00 pm
Human waste is having a severe impact on our Earth, including the wildlife that lives within it. Animals like waterfowl, sea turtles and whales among others are being harmed by the trash that pollutes our oceans. People are starting to take this concern seriously and finally making changes to be more environmentally conscious.
Human waste is having a severe impact on our Earth, including the wildlife that lives within it. Animals like waterfowl, sea turtles and whales among others are being harmed by the trash that pollutes our oceans. People are starting to take this concern seriously and finally making changes to be more environmentally conscious.

Planet Earth is our home, yet we treat it like a dumpster by throwing our trash in it. We over fish and hunt depleting the lives that live on it. The 8.7 million species that call the earth home are slowly dying, especially those in the oceans.

The oceans are made up of 321 million cubic miles of water, and 80% of the waters have remained unmapped, leaving miles of ocean and species that live there undiscovered. We can’t discover anything if we are continually destroying it.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is home to a massive amount of human waste. The patch, also known as the trash vortex, stretches from the West Coast of North America to Japan.

According to National Geographic, about 54% of the debris in the patch comes from those on land, the remaining garbage is said to come from offshore barges and oil-rigs. 

“The majority of this debris — about 705,000 tons — is fishing nets,” according to National Geographic. “More unusual items, such as computer monitors and LEGOs, come from dropped shipping containers.”

Most of the trash in the ocean is plastic. Plastic is popular among distributors because it is cheap to make, easy to use and durable. Not all plastics are biodegradable, most break down into smaller pieces over time.

The debris in the ocean is harmful for all the marine life inhabiting the waters, not just in the Pacific region. For instance, loggerhead sea turtles — found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans — mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and often choke to death on the bags.

Waterfowl like albatrosses mistake pellets of plastic resin for fish eggs and feed the pellets to their babies, effectively cutting the young lives short due to starvation or ruptures in their stomachs. 

The small debris floating in the water is not the only problem that marine life faces, it is also the giant masses of trash the eye can not see. According to marinedebris.noaa.gov, lost fishing nets are especially dangerous and are often called “ghost nets” due to the fact they still fish without the fisherman.

Ghost nets have a tendency to trap or wrap around animals that venture too close, entangling them. The more they struggle, the more entangled they become. Wildlife can also get hooked on plastic debris like packing straps, six-pack rings and handles of plastic bags, leaving the animals to slowly choke to death.

People joke around at times, while sipping coffee out of a straw, saying “save the turtles.” In reality some people do not put in any actual effort to make a difference. Though there are many people who are making steps in the right direction.

Those people take the extra step by buying reusable straws and cups, they donate money in efforts to combat the floating debris, and take the time to find a volunteer group which goes out to clean up the oceans.

There are charitable websites like, seeturtles.org, that provide easy ways people can help save the marine animals. The website provides a list of things that people can do, “don’t buy souvenirs or other items made from critically endangered hawksbill shell, reduce your carbon footprint, choose responsibly caught seafood, just say NO to plastics, hang onto those balloons and choose sunscreen carefully.”

Not many people think to look at sunscreen labels to see if it is safe for the environment, most people just look at how well it is going to work. What some people may not know is sunscreen with oxybenzone in it can pollute the water and cause harm to the coral reefs. Many of the sunscreens that are safe for the environment will have a “Reef Friendly” label attached.

People can help from any place in the world, they do not have to live near a large body of water in order to contribute. They can do the small things in their homes, like skipping plastic and using biodegradable options, choosing eco-friendly cleaning products and reduce their carbon footprint in general.

We need to sustain in order to remain on this planet and to share its beauty with generations to come. 

Photo of the Week

Taken by Mathieu Starke, staff photographer

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