Consider all the items that are thrown away, in most cases it is plastic and meant to be used once and thrown away. Where does it go? Some of it may end up in a landfill but unfortunately some of it ends up in the ocean or other bodies of water. This may occur because of poor waste management practices, littering, dumping, extreme weather events, or storm water discharge. Items can be large like boats or cars (after an extreme weather event) or they can be very small such as the microbeads that are found in some personal hygiene products (face wash, body wash, toothpaste, etc…).
Animals can become entangled or stuck in some of that trash (i.e. fish nets, fishing lines, containers, or rope) which will lead to serious health issues and death. Simply search “marine debris” on the internet and you will see some terrible images. With time items will breakdown but as small particles they are more likely to be consumed by fish and other marine animals. What does that matter to me? Well, it is not good for the fish but consider the fish that ends up on your plate. You may be consuming trash as well.
Marine debris or marine trash can be found throughout the planet both at the shore and the deep sea. A great deal of this garbage may collect together due to major or minor oceanographic features. Large aggregations of garbage can be found in the five major gyres. A gyre is a group of ocean currents that circulates around a central point. Smaller oceanographic features can also lead to concentrated aggregations known as garbage patches. These aggregations are becoming larger and more common place as time goes by and more trash ends up in the ocean.
What can be done? Proper disposal of trash is key particularly when you are near a body of water (trash is also an issue in lakes and rivers). Throw your cigarette butts away in the trash and not out on the sidewalk where they may end up in a storm drain. Discard fishing lines and related items properly as they can do a great deal of damage. Do not release balloons, they end up somewhere and that somewhere might be in an animals mouth or wrapped around their neck. But most importantly think about what you purchase. Can it be reused? Are there reusable alternatives? Does it come with unnecessary packaging? Does it include microbeads that will end up in the water one way or another? Think before you purchase.
About this Illustration: The fish skeleton and background are acrylic on canvas. The items adhered to the canvas are random objects I collected through the years. As a mixed media artist you tend to collect all sorts of stuff with the possibility of using it someday in your artwork. It is called creative reuse. If you are interested in donating materials or attaining materials for creative reuse go to Scrap USA (http://scrapusa.org) and look for the nearest store.
You can now purchase this piece through my Etsy Shop Science Stories: https://www.etsy.com/listing/238106140/the-plastic-ocean-original-mixed-media?ref=shop_home_active_1
For More Information:
NOAA Marine Debris Program: http://marinedebris.noaa.gov
5 Gyres: http://www.5gyres.org
Surfrider Foundation: http://www.surfrider.org/programs/entry/rise-above-plastics
The Ocean Conservancy: http://www.oceanconservancy.org/our-work/marine-debris/