Plastic in Our Playground

The ocean is our playground. We sail on it, we swim in it, we fish from it, and without it we wouldn’t have 60-80% of the world’s oxygen…so why do we abuse it?

A note from Ocean Crusaders’ founder Ian Thomson:

When we were kids at school we were all taught to clean up all the trash in our playground. So why did we change as we grew older?

Let’s pick two items that are incredibly numerous in our oceans and cause great issues for creatures living in the ocean and the ocean itself, let alone creating health risks to us: plastic bags and plastic water bottles. What do these items have in common? They have both been created for our “convenience.”

This is where it all began for Ocean Crusaders. As a professional skipper in the Whitsundays I began pulling Dead Sea turtles out of the water so they could be inspected by marine parks. The key moment came when one of the turtles I pulled out was found to have a plastic bag formed perfectly in its stomach. It had died of starvation but not before trying to eat 12 cigarette butts, a plastic water bottle cap and half a coke can. I set out to educate people of the issue and this is my crusade.

Our world uses somewhere between 500 billion and one trillion plastic bags every single year. If we joined them end on end they would circumnavigate the world a whopping 3.1 million times.

Plastic will never go away. It does not break down, it breaks up…into millions of smaller pieces that break up further through a process called photo degradation. In samples taken from the North Pacific Garbage Patch 10 years ago it was shown that pieces of plastic the size of plankton were floating around imitating this micro-organism.

In fact there was a ratio of six pieces of plastic to every plankton. Studies last year showed an increase to 45:1 and this is before the garbage from the Japanese Tsunami in March 2011 makes it to this region, believed to be another 1.5 million tons of trash floating around the north pacific.

The standard single use plastic bag will be around for over 1,000 years before it begins to photo-degrade. So with 500 billion of them added to our world every year, we are creating a problem we cannot clean up. That’s probably why there is enough rubbish in the North Pacific to cover the entire country of Australia 10ft deep. 50% of plastic bags that make it to the ocean come from landfill so putting them in the bin is not a solution.

Say no to plastic bags.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Ocean Crusaders was founded by Ian Thomson in June 2010 after setting the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of Australia. He is on a crusade to educate the world about the issues our oceans are facing. An online education program is available for primary school teachers to present to their students or for parents to present to their children. Visit www.OceanCrusaders.org for more details.

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