Ocean Journey: Plastic Pollution

Cornwall Coastline
March 14, 2019

British Science Week 2019 is celebrating the theme of journeys and at Adaptable Travel, we’ve taken a holistic approach and addressed the topic of our oceans and the pollution these are facing. With all the science and discovery our oceans present us with it is important that we strive to preserve the marine life to ensure discoveries can be made for generations to come!

Keep reading to discover how plastic is affecting our oceans and how you and your students can get involved with movements like #TrashTag and #2minutebeachclean.

In 2019 it seems the topic of plastic pollution and protecting our environment is ever more prominent, especially in younger generations. It’s incredible to see so many young people taking a vested interest in reducing their impact on the Earth and realising not enough is done, we can’t help but applaud them!It’s no secret that an enormous amount of plastic sadly winds up in our oceans. Sometimes genuine boat loads, in the case of the 1992 “Friendly Floatees” incident which saw over 28,000 rubber ducks lost at sea. 20 years on people all over the globe are stumbling across toys from this shipment still washing up on shores. There have been reports from Hawaii, South America, Australia and even the U.K, which is a lot of swimming for a little duck whose journey started in Hong Kong! Despite their friendly faces, these ducks are a sombre reminder of the lasting effects of plastic pollution on our oceans.

So, what have they taught us?

A blessing in disguise, of sorts, these rubber ducks have helped oceanographers to understand and track the currents of the ocean, a notably difficult element of oceanography. It was as oceanographer named Curtis Ebbesmeyer who first recognised and implemented these ducks into his research, making predictions about where these ducks would wash up based on previous knowledge of oceanic currents. This was proven, when his predictions began to transpire, with people reporting on their duckie discoveries. Ebbesmeyer hypothesised that the ducks would travel northerly toward the Atlantic, through the Arctic ice. This coincided with the frequency of sightings after 1992, which would later begin to pick up again in 2003 in locations such as Canada, Iceland and the UK. So, we have our little yellow friends to thank for our understanding of oceanic currents and their cycle, meaning we can subsequently research how plastic entering these currents will affect oceans.

North Pacific Gyre

These little yellow birds have also not only proven the existence of the North Pacific Gyre but allowed oceanographers to document how long it takes to complete a “lap” of this circuit. We now know that it takes roughly 3 years for something floating in these currents to travel throughout the ocean and either wash up or return to its starting position. Considering we dump at least 8 million tonnes of plastic into the oceans each year, it’s safe to assume there could be up to 24 million tonnes of plastic and waste being stirred through the currents at any one time. It’s not good, to say the least!

Plastic and Marine Life

As well as having a huge impact on the oceans themselves, excessive plastic in our oceans is also, unsurprisingly having an impact on marine life. As it stands experts think that at least 267 species of marine life, including turtles and seabirds are being threatened by unsafe levels of plastic in our oceans. If this number wasn’t shocking enough, we’re being told that at least 700 species face the threat of extinction by plastic pollution.

What can we do?

Time truly is of the essence with experts issuing a 10-year period to reverse the effects of climate change and ensure that moving forward the impact is lessened.

Reduce: Reducing your carbon footprint is a great place to start, being mindful of your energy consumption and the choices you make and how these affect the world around you. Simple efforts like catching the bus a few days a week and leaving the car at home or car-sharing on commutes are worth it. Every little really does help!

Re-use: A sure-fire way of making sure fewer plastic products ends up in our oceans is to simply re-use your plastics. Governments all over the world are banning and reducing simple use plastics, which is certainly a step in the right direction. However, if you’re looking for ideas a little closer to home then why not try and reduce the single-use plastics you use at home and in the classroom and re-use water bottles, bring your own bags when shopping and encourage your students to ditch the tinfoil and clingfilm and use re-usable plastic containers.

Recycle: It can sometimes feel like you need to crack the Davinci Code when it comes to understanding packaging labels these days. However, spending a little bit of time to understand what you can and can’t recycle and making an effort to recycle when you can, will benefit us all in the long run.

#TrashTag: This is a great way to educate your students about environmental issues and engage them with hands-on learning! A challenge sweeping social media currently it involves visiting a local place and cleaning up litter and waste. People are sharing their #TrashTag stories all over social media to not only make places in their communities’ litter free but to highlight the amount of plastic waste we produce. It doesn’t sound glamorous but it’s a great way for students to understand the issues of pollution, climate change and waste, on a smaller scale in their communities. #

2minutebeachclean: Similar to #TrashTag this movement is centred around preserving our beaches and coastlines. Encouraging people to spend two minutes cleaning up the beaches around them, ridding them of waste and plastic that will end up polluting our oceans. They launched an app in 2017 which makes it easier for people to locate their nearest beach clean stations and record their beach cleans, as well as linking these to social media to share your activities with everyone!

At Adaptable Travel, we value the beauty and wildlife of the UK coastlines and strive to ensure that students are educated on environmental issues. We offer fantastic school trips to Cornwall, where students can appreciate the delicate eco-systems of local coastal towns and develop their understanding of oceans and local marine life at visits like The National Maritime Museum and Padstow village National Lobster Hatchery. If you would like to find out more about these wonderful experiences, contact Adaptable Travel today.