The ocean, which covers 71% of the Earth's surface, is a vital component of our planet's ecosystem and a crucial source of livelihood for millions of people worldwide. According to the UN, 50-80% of all life is found under the ocean's surface. However, despite its importance, the ocean is facing unsustainable pressures, with 60% of the world's marine ecosystems that support livelihoods already degraded. Among the many challenges facing the ocean, marine plastics have emerged as a particularly pressing issue that threaten the well-being of marine life and ultimately our own.
The pervasive presence of plastic in our daily lives has led to a significant increase in plastic production. Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year for use in a wide range of applications, including packaging, construction, and textiles. Unfortunately, the disposal of plastic waste often results in significant environmental harm, especially in our oceans. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reported that at least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year, making up 80% of all marine debris found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. Thailand, for instance, is currently the 10th highest contributor to ocean plastic waste pollution, with an annual total of 1.03 million tons of improperly managed plastic waste. Marine species suffer from the ingestion or entanglement of plastic debris, causing severe injuries and even death. Not only to marine life, plastic pollution also poses a threat to food safety and quality, human health, coastal tourism, and climate change. The dangerous consequences of increasing marine plastics are becoming more apparent and must be addressed to safeguard the health of our planet and its inhabitants.
To address the root causes of plastic pollution, it is crucial to reduce plastic use and explore alternative solutions to prevent plastic waste from entering our oceans. Governments can play a significant role in implementing policies and regulations that limit the use of single-use plastics and encourage the use of biodegradable alternatives. At the same time, individuals can also take steps to reduce plastic waste by making conscious purchasing decisions, using reusable bags and containers, and properly disposing of waste.
GREAT ACTION ON MARINE PLASTICS
The "Upcycling the Oceans, Thailand" project is one of the GREAT actions on marine plastics that is making positive impact on the environment and society. The project collects used plastic bottles and fishing nets from seas, rivers, and the ocean, then upcycles these materials into value-added products. The project has encouraged waste buy-back programs from households and antique shops from the locals, which helps reduce plastic waste in the environment. Additionally, the sales of the upcycled products have exceeded $630,000, providing a significant source of income for the community. All in all, the initiative does not only cleaning up the oceans but also contributing to the betterment of society by creating a circular economy that benefits the community as a whole.
The World Ocean Day is a timely reminder to protect our oceans and marine life. Our actions on land have direct consequences on the oceans and it is our responsibility to avoid harming them. Those who turn threats into opportunities to protect the oceans will be well-positioned to succeed in a sustainable future.
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