A major decline in the world’s biological diversity refers to human excessive activities. The critical problem is that the human impacts have accelerated present extinction rates to 1000–10,000 times natural rate (1997). In the ocean, main threats for marine life safety come in various forms, such as overexploitation, overfishing, and harvesting, dumping of chemical, industrial, and radioactive wastes are purposely thrown into the ocean especially before 1972.
In addition to those threats, we could add pollution, land reclamation, and global climate change.
The pollution by plastic and its deleterious effect on the marine environment were reviewed by bringing together most of the literature based on marine life and plastic pollution.
Plastics are synthetic organic polymers, and though they have only existed for just over a century (1993). The use of these materials has increased exponentially over the past three decades and has integrated into today’s lifestyle, due of their useful characteristics: lightweight, strong, durable and cheap and suitability for the manufacture of a very wide range of products (Laist, 1987).
2- The treats of plastics
The threat of plastics to the marine environment has been ignored for a long time, and its seriousness has been only recently recognized (1999). They are primarily due to the ingestion of plastic debris and entanglement in packaging bands, synthetic ropes, and lines, or drift nets (1987).
They usually end up in the marine environment when accidentally lost, carelessly handle or left behind by beach goers.
They also reach the sea, the rivers, and the municipal drainage systems (1997).
The accumulation of plastic debris in the ocean/sea is a highly potential danger to marine ecosystems. As a result, a large number of marine species are now harmed, killed by plastic and entangled in different kind of plastic (nets, HDPE bags, straws...etc) which put a lot of them in danger of extension and lead to inexorable destruction of large tracts of our ocean life.
Entanglement can be easily observed and is the most visible effect of plastic debris on organisms in the marine environment. Entanglement can cause death by drowning, suffocation, strangulation, or starvation (Allsopp et al. 2007). At least 267 marine species worldwide suffer from entanglement and ingestion of plastic debris (1997).
Another problem of plastic pollution is that it facilitates the transport of species to other regions; alien species hitchhike on ﬂoating debris and invade new ecosystems, thereby causing a shift in species composition or even extinction of other species (Aliani and Molcard 2003). We can add the transfer of contaminants to the environment or to organisms when ingested (2009).
In addition to the impact on marine life, plastic debris can also damage marine industries (entangling propellers and blocking cooling systems). It has been estimated that marine debris damage to the marine industry in the Asia-Paciﬁc region costs $1.26 billion annually (2011).
3- Solutions to “fix” the marine ecosystem.
Many national laws, as well as international agreements, now forbid the dumping of harmful materials into the ocean, although enforcing these regulations remains a challenge.
Many pollutants are difficult to fully remove and keep persisting in the environment. Chemical pollutants take a long period of time to be broken down. And they also might increase in concentration as they move up the food web. Because plastic is thought to take hundreds of years to break down, as it is major threat to the marine environment for centuries.
Go for “Zero waste”. It’s about diverting waste from landfills or incineration, by rethinking waste as a resource, not just something to be discarded. We need to focus on reduction to bring down the volume of waste we produce. We also have to encourage responsible chemical-use through consumer actions, so we can protect the environment for the future.
The power of Education is also an effective tool and should not be underestimated to clarify and to present the issue, especially for young ages at schools and universities.
Awareness campaigns for families and the communities are highly recommended in order to change habits and make an impactful change. These will lead to stimulating a conscious attitude to reduce such an environmental threat.
Since the problem is well understood, the intention to act upon it will definitely make a difference.
One other possibility to solve the problem is the usage of biodegradable and reusable alternatives wherever you can: in food packaging, dishware, and office supplies.
For example purchase locally made, nontoxic furnishings where you will do an investing in durable items that will have a long-lasting, healthy life.
And one more thing is to recycle and upcycle as much as you can, as a consequence it will save production energy and prevent the dumping of materials into the environment.
Upcycling is a creative reuse of waste materials and unwanted products. It’s about transforming something old into something chic and modern with a lower carbon footprint. Part of upcycling can be simple refurbishment, and part of it is re-styling it, by adding new covers, new coats of paint, and other new changes.
Empower creative entrepreneurs and businesses interested in sustainability and taking action toward it. Those businesses have a responsibility to further the conversation around global climate change and take our environmental impact seriously.
To conclude, Taking the steps should start from schools, NGOs, companies, and all sectors of the community. Thinking green and acting green is a fundamental attitude to reduce such an environmental threat.
Education is the best way to solve such environmental problems. Here’s come the role of legislation and the enhancement of ecological consciousness through awareness campaigns, to ensure that businesses change their attitudes towards the problem.
In the end, I’ll conclude with the following citation:
‘‘The last fallen mahogany would lie perceptibly on the landscape, and the last black rhino would be obvious in its loneliness, but a marine species may disappear beneath the waves unobserved and the sea would seem to roll on the same as always’’ (Ray, 1988, p. 45).