You wake up in the early AM. Today is Thursday. You proceed to go about your normal daily routine, except today, is your street’s garbage day. So, after your first cup of coffee, breakfast, and getting ready for the day, you run around collecting garbage from the bins around your house. You replace old plastic bags with new, and without even thinking about it, you throw each bag into a much larger bag into your garage, before placing the bin out on the street for collection.
Have you ever wondered what happens to all the plastic bags you’re disposing of? Or consider how many bags you and you’re family are throwing away each year?
Consider this… The largest dump is not actually on land – it’s in the Pacific Ocean. It is know as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and is estimated to contain 3.5 million tons of garbage, with 90% being plastic.
Each year Canadians use up to 15 billion bags for garbage disposal. Less than 5% of plastic bags actually get recycled, while the remaining percentage goes to our landfills, or ends up polluting our streets, our lakes and our rivers. The term “throw away society” couldn’t ring more true!
These petroleum-based plastic bags, are non-biodegradable and thus, tend to accumulate in low spiraling waters, where there are low winds, and typically along our coastlines. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is one of 5 gyres around the globe that continue to accumulate substantial amounts of waste.
This ecological disaster has a tremendous impact on our marine life. Sea turtles, whales, and other aquatic life mistakenly consume our plastic bags for food, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths per year. It has also been reported that this is the cause of death for up to one million seabirds each year.
The garbage patch has often been referred to as “trash island” but unfortunately, as Holly Bamford (director of NOAA’S Marine Debris Program) has put it, if it were just an island, we could just go in and scoop it up. But it’s not that simple.
What can we do?
Ultimately, we have to stop the problem at the source and become more aware of how we use and dispose of our every day items. People need to be informed about plastics and how purchasing biodegradable materials will help to reduce the accumulation of plastics in our waters.
For more information on The Great Garbage Patch, watch this Youtube video: