World Ocean Day is coming up, which means it’s the perfect time to pause and take stock of your environmental and oceanic impact!
We live on a beautiful blue planet filled with astounding natural diversity and aquatic ecosystems. The ocean is the origin and the engine of all life on this planet, but it is under threat. Plastic and ocean pollution is growing at a terrifying rate, but fortunately, it’s not too late to clean up our act.
There are many different ways humans impact and pollute our oceans, but the most obvious—and arguably, most harmful—is through plastic pollution. According to Ocean Conservancy, an international marine advocacy group, over 8 million metric tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans each year. These additions are on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons already polluting our oceans.
The environmental organization Marine Safe notes that plastic can have a devastating effect on marine ecosystems, impacting everything from fish to land mammals and sea birds.
“Plastic kills fish, birds, marine mammals, and sea turtles, destroys habitats, and even affects animals’ mating rituals, which can have devastating consequences and can wipe out entire species.”
And worse, these contaminations can make their way up the food chain and have a widespread impact. If one small fish ingests a piece of plastic or debris, it won’t be long until a larger fish, a mammal, and, eventually, a human eats that same trash. In fact, based on recent research from The World Wildlife Fund, it’s estimated that worldwide, humans consume about 5 grams of microplastic each week—that’s equivalent to one credit card’s worth of plastic every single week.
In addition to affecting our own food intake, this plastic can have drastic consequences for the animals and marine life that encounter it in the wild. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature elaborated on some of the ways ocean pollution can harm marine life.
“The most visible and disturbing impacts of marine plastics are the ingestion, suffocation, and entanglement of hundreds of marine species. Marine wildlife such as seabirds, whales, fishes, and turtles, mistake plastic waste for prey, and most die of starvation as their stomachs are filled with plastic debris. They also suffer from lacerations, infections, reduced ability to swim, and internal injuries.”
The IUCN also noted that floating plastics can spread bacteria and invasive organisms, which can kill or disrupt ecosystems.
And this problem is not simply going away. Scientists predict that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean, as measured by weight.
PANDEMIC POLLUTION AND MASK WASTE
Unfortunately, the Coronavirus pandemic has set environmentalists back years, as a record-breaking amount of pollution entered our oceans—much of it through medical plastic and mask waste.
For instance, you might have come across this photo by California photographer Ralph Pace, which won first place in the 2021 World Photo Contest in the environmental category. It depicts a curious sea otter off the Monterey, California coast investigating a discarded N95 surgical face mask sinking to the bottom of the seafloor.
The photo was hailed internationally as a heartbreaking symbol of how the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted our ocean ecosystems. In 2020 ocean plastic and mask pollution increased 30 percent compared to 2019 due to an increased reliance on single-use takeout containers, disposable masks, and PPE protective gear.
Researchers have released a number of concerning facts regarding ocean pollution during the pandemic. For example, a study published in Science Direct, which assessed how the pandemic is impacting the global plastic waste footprint, estimates that throughout the pandemic, 1.6 million tons of COVID-related plastic waste have been generated each day. Additionally, they estimate that 3.4 billion single-use facemasks are discarded daily, with 1.56 billion of these masks ending up in the world’s oceans, according to an Oceans Asia report.
Most single-use masks will take over 450 years to break down.
In a press conference, Director of Research for Oceans Asia Dr. Teale Phelps Bondaroff, who authored the report, called the 2020 mask pollution “just the tip of the iceberg,” as she expects much more of the 52 billion disposable masks produced in 2020 to end up in landfills or waterways.
This pollution has long-lasting implications and it’s crucial that as we address this pandemic, we also try to mitigate and reduce plastic and mask waste.
THE SOLUTION TO OCEAN POLLUTION
With all of these depressing statistics and figures, you might be wondering how you can make an impact on the world’s oceans. But there are a number of ways individuals can make a big difference in protecting our oceans amid an ever-worsening environmental crisis. And there is no better way to celebrate world ocean day!
When is world ocean day? World ocean day is held June 8 each year — check in with your local government or community organizers to see if there are any special events or meetings you can attend to celebrate. But regardless of if your community is celebrating or not, there are a few ways you can pay tribute to our lovely seas.
If you’re lucky enough to live on a coast, you can show our oceans some love by taking your family to a beach cleanup to clear your coast of disruptive debris and plastic pollution. Beach cleanups are an easy way to make an obvious impact in your community. And in the process, you could be saving the lives of countless sea turtles, sea birds, or mammals.
A second step is to raise awareness around plastic use in your community and ask your local or national government to establish clear rules and regulations around corporate plastic pollution and emissions.
Finally, you can reduce your environmental footprint by limiting your single-plastic use, buying reusable bags and carry-out containers, and generally being more conscientious about the products you choose—including the type of face mask you rely on.
Scientists are clear that the best way to protect you and your family from COVID-19 and harmful pollution is by wearing a mask in public spaces—but that doesn’t mean you have to hurt the environment while doing so. While some masks are adding to a growing global pollution problem, wearing 1 Cambridge Mask can prevent 90 disposable masks from going into a landfill.
Because Cambridge masks are approved for three months of usage, you can wear it each day, as opposed to throwing away a disposable mask after a single use. With Cambridge Masks you can keep yourself protected and healthy while also making a positive impact on the environment.
Additionally, our PRO mask filters 99.9 percent of all viruses, bacteria, particulates, and pollutants and even have antibacterial properties, so it will keep you safer than a traditional surgical mask, and also won’t end up littering the seafloor.
We’re committed to helping consumers make ethical, environmentally friendly choices for themselves and their family which is why all of our masks are sustainable and washable. What’s more, to prove our commitment to promoting a green lifestyle, even our packaging is eco-friendly.
On this world ocean day, commit to reducing your eco-footprint and searching out ways that you and your family can have a positive impact on our oceans and environment.