Discovered 24 years ago by the oceanographer Charles Moore, the Great Pacific garbage patch continues to grow. Located off the United-States between California and Hawaii, it’s made up of about 1.8 billion pieces of plastic which cover an area of 1.6 million km², according to a 2018 scientific report. But the garbage patch is only the tip of this iceberg—the only one that doesn’t seem to melt. A few metres beneath this visible pollution, there are microplastics coming from waste decomposing at sea, fibres released when washing polyester clothing, and plastic microbeads found in cleaning products, exfoliants and cosmetics. These microplastics are consequently ingested by zooplankton, the first link in the food chain.
The entire marine food chain, up to human beings, is therefore contaminated by these plastics, which have been proven to cause serious long-term problems for animals; they block digestive tracts, disturb growth, cause a decline in reproduction, and diminish the urge to eat, which results in death. Yet it’s currently impossible to know the consequences of this pollution on humans. And plastics manufacturers still have no obligation to document the potential adverse effects these oil-based products containing various pollutants have on humans, nor do they have to bear the burden of the end-of-life of their products.
Based on available estimates, the world’s oceans and seas have over 150 million metric tonnes of plastic, a number that continues to grow every day. So, what can we do to fight this global scourge? We can start by refusing single-use plastics while they’re still allowed in the country. Because although the Trudeau government made a commitment to ban these items, the pandemic has unfortunately given more time to a polluting industry that struggles to provide alternatives. Knowing that only 9% of plastic waste is truly recycled, say goodbye to grocery bags, cotton swabs, coffee covers and sticks, straws, bottles, and other Styrofoam packaging. It’s high time to replace these objects with durable and sustainable products. The same applies to cleaning and personal care products that cause pollution; start your massive cleanup by reading the corresponding article in our Zero Waste Tips.