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Most Shocking Facts About Plastic!

       From plastic getting stuck in sharks stomachs to an entire continent made of plastic waste, here are 5 things about plastic you really need to know!! 
     5. Plastic and the Ocean Plastics are an everyday part of our life, that's just fact. However, once you throw away that water bottle, or that plastic fork, you forget about it. Every 8 seconds, a bag or two's worth of plastic is thrown into the ocean. About every year, 8 million tons worth of garbage is dumped into the ocean. And it’s becoming a huge problem. In fact, it's gotten so bad that scientists estimate that 60-90% of all litter in the oceans today is comprised of plastic. Even more scary, there's apparently more microplastic (broken down plastic) in the ocean than there are stars in the milky way galaxy. That's a lot, and it's only getting worse. In about a decade? The amount of pollution in the water could amplify by a factor of ten. Add a few more decades of no one caring and it could get to a point where parts of the ocean will be pushed aside by pure plastic and disappear. Scientists predict that at the current rate, by 2050 there will be more pieces of plastic in the ocean than marine animals. So how does it all end up in the ocean? Many countries don't take as much care of trash and plastics as you might think. Also, people will just leave their trash on beaches, or throw it overboard when they're on boats, and on and on and on. Multiply those acts by 7-8 billion people on Planet Earth, and you’ve got a major problem. The worst part though is that plastics don't degrade at a fast rate, they're actually built to last! As such, it can take 50-100 years for a single plastic item to break down enough to not be harmful. And again, it's only getting worse with each passing day. 
     4. Countries Don't Go All Out For Recycling You'd think that with the dangers that plastic presents to our planet that people in the governments of countries all over the world would enforce the notion of recycling. But that's not the case. Countries choose to recycle, and don’t make it mandatory law, and that's led to many problems. For example, what do you think the highest rate of recycling is in one country? The top recycler, how much do you think? Well, the answer is 25%, and that's China. Now, Europe as a whole is 30%, but that's a lot of countries adding up to that number. And still, that's a LOT of garbage and plastic that ISN'T being recycled. Oh, and for the United States? It's only 9%! 9%! What's more, between the people and government, there's a misconception that there are only two things to do with plastic, recycle it or throw it away, and many choose the latter. Plastics can be used for all sorts of things that can help the planet, but because the world isn't being educated about it, not many people are paying attention. Plastics can not only be recycled, but they can be converted into other things, including housing and fuel, which is something the planet needs. It can also be destroyed in a way that doesn't hurt the planet. But, most people just throw it away, and that's how we ended up where we are. We just don’t know what to do with it! 
      3. Animals and Ecosystems So, besides filling up the oceans, it may seem like plastic is just floating around and not really affecting anything else. BUT plastics can be lethal to all sorts of animals, and it can fill up and destroy their homes by just being there. You may already know this, but the when you get a 6-pack of cans, whether beer or soda, it comes with plastic rings that keep them all together. They may seem harmless to us, but to sea creatures? They're deadly. In fact, turtles and otters and all kinds of other sea creatures will swim right through them, get their heads caught in the rings, and then choke to death. Those things will stretch, but they won’t break. A simple thing you can do is cut the rings open before you throw them away. Speaking of turtles, over 50% of the Sea Turtle population has actually consumed plastic of some sort. And that's just turtles. Sharks, whales, fish, and all sorts of sea life eat plastics willingly or unknowingly and it slowly kills them. Even birds like pelicans have been found with tons of plastic inside their stomachs. Plastics also hurt ecosystems, which require a certain amount of balance to maintain themselves. These plastics can block, cover, consume, and straight up poison certain ecosystems. There was a study that states that up to 70% of plastics that are thrown into the ocean actually sink instead of float. And by "sink", they mean right to the bottom. So that means that the bottom of the ocean can either be a rich paradise for life, or a collection of trash, it just depends on where you are. And the more there is, the more the animals will suffer. 
    2. You Can Help After hearing all the things that plastics can do to our planet and its creatures, you’re probably wondering what you can do to help stop this epidemic. If you are, listen up, because you can help, and you can do it in the simplest of ways that honestly won't cost you a thing. First things first, if you are going to throw away plastics, recycle them! Plastics don't break down naturally, but, they can be reused in order to make new things. Recycling really does help the planet, and the more you do it, the more you're saving plastics from going into landfills that are already overflowing, or oceans that are getting more polluted by the minute. But that's not all, if a plastic item can be reused by your or your friends or your family, do so! Think about the plastic bags you get from the grocery store. Instead of throwing them away after you've gotten the groceries out of it, save them. Use them to carry things, or to store items, or if you have a pet, use it to help clean up its business. Or plastic water bottles can be reused to store water or other liquids for future uses. Also avoid using plastics that are made for one-time use like plastic forks and knives, and especially avoid using a straw whenever possible. Here are some easy tips for you because simple choices you make on a day to day basis can make a huge impact: Try to take your own cloth bag to the grocery store so you can avoid getting plastic bags. If you forget, ask for paper bags instead. Always have a reusable cup or mug with you when you order coffee or drinks to go. Try to skip bottled water when you can and use some kind of filter instead Avoid buying items that are overly wrapped in plastic. When you order food to go, ask if they come in reusable containers. Sometimes restaurants will even allow you to bring your own! Don’t just throw away your electronics, those things can often be taken to a special place to be recycled, it just takes a tiny bit of extra effort to figure it out but the planet will thank you! If you don't know what to do with something, Google will help you! There are plenty of uses for plastics, and sometimes you just need to get a bit creative to figure out what they can be used for. Here's a real story for you, my friend knows someone who takes plastic bags and uses them to make blankets! I would have never thought of that but it's true! And, of course, if you find a piece of plastic on the ground, find a recycling bin to put it in. You can also volunteer to clean up parks, beaches, and more. And if you don't believe me when I say every little bit helps, here is one last thing to show you... 
      1. The Plastic Continent You might think I'm exaggerating here, but I'm honestly not. In the Pacific Ocean there is a mound of plastic waste and garbage so big that it actually looks like its own continent when you look at it from above. People looking at satellite images actually thought it was a lost continent!! It is easily confused with a land mass, but then as you get closer to it, you see the truth. That it is a mound of trash comprised of the waste of humanity. Now, this is where things get downright weird. This continent is comprised of trash from many nations, including the United States and Japan. But just because you see it on the surface, that doesn't mean that's all the trash that's there. This is because not all waste floats on the surface, like I mentioned before, some of it has sunk right to the bottom. Depending on the type of plastic, some of it sinks a few inches, a few feet, a few meters, or even deeper than that. Because of this fact, it's actually impossible to measure the size of the plastic continent. Think about that, how large and deep must it truly be in order to be immeasurable? That's a lot of plastic waste. At this point, you might be thinking, "well, how did this happen?" It has to do with ocean currents. You see, in the Pacific ocean, there is something called the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. This is a vortex of currents that have been formed by the Earth's winds, and naturally push and pull things around, including, plastics and garbage. So, through these currents, and given enough time, the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" was born. Ironically, it was originally two different garbage patches. One was near Japan, and the other was in the gap between California and Hawaii. Eventually, they merged, and you get what you see now. Another question you might be asking is, "Well, if it's there, why isn't anyone cleaning it up?" Most likely because of ego, and money. Because of where it's located in the Pacific Ocean, no one is willing to take responsibility for it. After all, while it's true that SOME of the plastic and garbage is undoubtedly from several countries, not all of it is. What's more, even if some head of a country decided to make it their mission to clean it up, it would take years and billions of dollars to get it all clean. Not to mention the fact that there's the question of how it would get cleaned. What are you supposed to do with it?? It's easy to look at the garbage patch and think, "Just get some nets and scoop it all up!", but it's not that simple. While there are big objects in the patch, there is also a wave of small ones known as microplastics, and they are so small that nets and scoops designed to pick up trash won't pick them up. There are many people trying to fix this naturally, individuals, health organizations and some international companies are making strides to try and make the patch go away forever. But it's not easy, and it'll take a lot of time! The Great Pacific Garbage Patch may just be the biggest stain on the planet Earth, and there's no doubt that it's there because of us. 
Thanks for reading!


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