Introduction

Plastic pollution has been an issue for years, and personal protective equipment is only adding to the problem. Personal protective equipment includes masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and more. Before the COVID-19 pandemic started, global plastic pollution had quadrupled over the last four decades. Now, masks and gloves are reaching the seas and confusing ocean life, which mistakes the plastic for food such as jellyfish. Most plastics are not biodegradable, which means plastic products would stay floating in the ocean for hundreds of years before decomposing. As plastics do decompose, the ocean acidifies, which affects marine life directly. When humans eat seafood, they are at risk of harmful effects from plastics or acidification, which impacted their food’s life. Also, plastic products are built from natural gas, which means that when they decompose, they contribute to climate change.

Although a pandemic is ongoing, it should not be taken as an excuse for polluting the ocean. People should care about the ocean because it directly affects humans as well as climate change, and they should be mindful of disposing of their personal protective equipment properly.

Direct Effects

Plastic pollution in the ocean may not seem like a big issue because people might not think it has much to do with humans. However, this is a false assumption. Through chain reactions, the harms of plastic come right back to humans. Animals that ingest plastics by mistake can end up as seafood, and humans would eat them without thinking twice. However, the harmful effects that are a result include hormonal issues, reproductive issues, and kidney damage. As plastics in the ocean increase, the ocean acidifies, and this affects its marine life and coral reefs. Shellfish are unable to build sturdy shells and cannot survive well in the ocean. Shellfish are consumed by bigger fish, and if these fish lack food to eat, then their population will drop. Coral reefs also die out from acidification, meaning bigger fish lose another source of food and protection, and their population drops. If bigger fish die out, then communities that rely on fish for food and economy would suffer.

Long-Term Thinking

Plastic pollution in the ocean also affects climate change, which has gotten worse through the years as well. Oceans are the largest natural carbon sink for absorbing greenhouse gases, which means they are crucial to climate change. As the oceans absorb gases, heat causes plastics to decompose and release the same gases absorbed by the ocean, as they originate from fossil fuels. This cycle goes on as the planet continues to heat up with the trapping of greenhouse gases, and the rate of global warming increases. Global warming has numerous harmful effects on ecosystems. Air becomes polluted and more harmful to breathe in, sea levels increase, weather becomes severe, food supplies are disrupted, and more. The oceans also become more acidic as they absorb more greenhouse gases, making the water harmful to marine life. Once again, marine life dies out, and communities that rely on fish suffer.

The Current Excuse

Due to the ongoing pandemic, people may think they have an excuse for not disposing of plastics properly, such as their personal protective equipment. It has been many months of the pandemic, and most people want it to end as quickly as possible. People might think to stay away from public trash cans to stay safe from the germs of multiple people, and instead throw their garbage away on the ground. Staying safe from the coronavirus is the primary mindset of most people currently, and they are not too mindful about other factors such as the environment or the future. However, the pandemic is no excuse for pollution anywhere, as wind can take away light plastics such as masks and gloves and bring them into the ocean. Although the current mindset of people is to stay safe from the coronavirus, they should take into account the future of their environment if they now disregard it. They should be careful with plastics, and it is not difficult to properly dispose of them. The future effects of ocean pollution outweigh the negative aspects of the coronavirus, as the ocean directly connects to humans and contributes significantly to the threatening issue of climate change.

Conclusion

Currently, the coronavirus is humans’ main concern, but plastics should still be disposed of properly, as the ocean should be taken into account. If plastics are mindlessly thrown away, they end up in the ocean, and have harmful effects on humans and increase the threat of climate change on the planet. Solutions to decrease this pollution are plentiful. One example is to use washable masks, which can be reused and do not have to be thrown away as often. Disposing of personal protective equipment properly is also critical to keeping the environment clean. If the oceans continue to acidify, swimming on many beaches would become a dangerous activity. People should educate others who do not think the ocean affects them as well as those who carelessly litter. Donating is also a way to help the cause directly. Overall, humans should not prioritize their current health and dispose of their personal protective equipment carelessly, as it affects their own health and contributes to global warming through the ocean.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and/or student and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of United 4 Social Change Inc., its board members, or officers.
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