The amount of waste that is getting dumped in the ocean is monumental, but what’s more alarming is the amount of plastic waste that is filling up the water bodies. Despite strict control measures, tons of plastic products are being dumped in the ocean every year, and undoubtedly it’s causing a huge headache for both marine biologist and policy makers as well. But what’s new in that you ask, well to put it in a single line – the oceanic plastic soup is getting so big that scientists have actually even given up collecting the exact amount.
What’s the plastic soup?
Now the thing to understand here is that, unlike oil, plastics are particulate objects with varying densities with most, dense enough to even sink. So as one would imagine, they don’t form groups or islands of plastic waste, but are scattered around like sprinkles on a muffin. And here the area they are spread out isn’t the size of a plate or even a diner, but twice the size the United States. Researchers have understood that plastics accumulate in the ocean around gyres, or whirlpool where various ocean currents meet. And these gyres are gigantic to even measure, and if someone sets off to find tiny specks of plastic on these huge whirlpools, they are going to cause more environmental damage than what they are going to get rid of.
Latest estimates of the giganticness of the plastic soup
Also scientists accept that they have so far only counted on data they have been able to extract scanning surface of the ocean, but the real trouble lies within. Even plastics as dense as PET have the ability to sink, making them impossible to detect. And most plastics are broken down into small pieces or consumed by large fishes making the detection process even more hopeless. At present, scientists have put a vague estimate that 40,000 tons out of the 300 million tons of plastics we produce are getting dumped in oceans. But they believe the accurate amount of plastic wastes can be much higher.
Challenges that make the plastic soup even scarier
Cleaning up might seem like a good solution, and there have been many ideas that have been proposed such as the solar powered floating boom which drifts across the waters cleaning up the surface of plastics. But the cleanup region that is under consideration is one of the most hostile environments on earth. So really, it’s almost impossible to get anything working in such conditions for more than a month. But other ideas such as land based cleanups are on the rise, which prevent plastics from getting deep in to the ocean from the pinch points. But ultimately, the best possible way from preventing the plastic soup from getting any bigger is by producing and consuming less.