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Are Plastic Straws Ocean’s Number One Enemy?

Well… the answer is no. These straws have certainly been declared war on, but the truth is plastic straws actually only make up less than 1 percent of the trash in the oceans. People don’t realize that they make basically no impact on the environment by banning the straws. Sure, you’ll feel like a better person and feel as though you’ve just helped save the world, but did you really? It’s a good start to helping, but you’ll have to remember it’s just that. A start.

Now, how do we help after the beginning step? We can’t just abandon the environment after banning some straws. Studies estimated that there are 150 million tons of plastic in the ocean. We add another 8 million tons every year, and if this continues, by 2050 the plastic will outweigh the fish in the ocean. Instead of fishing for fish, you’ll most likely be fishing for trash. So unless you want mignon trash filet instead of mignon fish filet, it’s time for us to start doing something.

It’s great to be talking about how to help, but talking won’t exactly accomplish anything. To really change something, you need to act. And what better way than to see what the professionals of the seas have to offer as tips? But before we help, let’s figure out where the problems come from.

Although plastic is a game changing invention, because of its chemical properties, it isn’t able to fully decompose, and is extremely hard to recycle. So, most of the plastic in our world will likely remain for years and years. About 80 percent of the trash found on the beaches comes from plastics that are usually thrown away as trash, such as bottles, utensils, straws, and food wrappers.

Since plastic comes from chemically changing oil, it will not go back in nature. Though plastic never really fades, it does slowly become smaller pieces of itself. Even these small pieces of plastic will harm not just the oceans and the animals, but humans too. These microplastics have been found in some whales and dolphins that have been stuck on the beach.

Fishing gear has posed a huge threat to the mammals of the oceans. Fishing gear can wound up around the animals (entanglement) and kill them, sparing no animals, whether they were the smallest sea otters or the largest whales. Lost or discarded nets have been one of the most dangerous types of ocean trash. The entanglement of fishing gear has been bringing multiple species of the ocean animals to being almost extinct, including the northern right whale along the United States East Coast, as well as the vaquita in the Gulf of California.

We’ve gone over how trash has gotten into our oceans, so let’s talk about how we can keep the trash out of it. How can we help? Most of the ocean trash found is made of plastic, especially the disposable ones mentioned earlier, so by turning over to more reusable and sustainable alternatives, we can stop the pollution right at the source. Here are all the different ways we can help save our oceans:

  • Switch out plastic bottles and bags with reusable ones like those made of metal or cloth

  • Replace plastic straws and utensils with non ocean harming ones like bamboo or metal

  • Encourage businesses to make less plastic items

  • Spread awareness of the situation and try to get more people involved

  • Support Trash Clean Up Days anywhere near you

  • Donate to Charities (if possible) that help with ocean trash

Now, you’ve reached the end, and hopefully you realize that straws are only one small thing to eliminate, and only our first step. If we want to do this right, we’ll have to go beyond that. The next time you think about littering or not caring about whether or not oceans have plastic or not, just think about the cute baby seals suffering as it chokes on a piece of plastic.

Angelina Lin, Bentonville

11th Grade

Instagram: @sunsetrose19

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