By: Margot Bruder, `13
The ocean is the world’s greatest and most abundant shared resource. However, it has fallen victim to the Tragedy of the Commons. The rapid growth in worldwide plastic production, due to its availability has resulted in massive amounts of marine debris. Oceanic plastic pollution is a truly global issue as every countrys’ consumption contributes to its accumulation and impacts global environmental health. The five oceanic gyres represent the global responsibility for the pollution as the ocean’s currents bring trash from all over the world together. In wealthy countries, such as the United States, our levels of consumption have become immensely high due to the convenience of low-cost plastic. Impoverished countries often do not have strong enough governments and infrastructure to support and facilitate collection and recovery programs for trash. Both of these factors ultimately allow huge amounts of plastic to enter the environment and be carried into the ocean each year. Marine life is deeply harmed by both pre-production and post-consumer forms of plastic, as well as both macro and micro debris. Ever-increasing numbers of organisms are found dead due to ingestion of plastic. Eventually, plastic pollution will not only prove to be detrimental to marine life but will also degrade the quality of the oceans to a point of threatening public health. The mitigation of plastic production and consumption through corporately responsible businesses and improved recovery and collection programs will ultimately accomplish source reduction. Source reduction would mean directly reducing the generation of plastic pollution on an international scale. Because the plastic pollution emitted by one nation will travel and harm the marine and public health of other regions, International cooperation and dialogue is vital in preventing more plastic from entering the ocean. 80% of plastic pollution can be traced to land-based activities, while sea-based activities are responsible for only 20% of plastic pollution. We must examine our social practices surrounding plastic and alter our methods of use and recovery in order to begin healing our oceans and shorelines.