Since the beginning of the plastic era, starting circa 1950s, millions of tons of plastic debris has entered the world’s oceans. As society has continued to grow, so too has the production and consumption of plastic. Upon entering the ocean the polymers gradually breakdown and concentrate into five rotating currents, called gyres. In these gyres it has been discovered that plastic polymers out number the plastic six to one, and sometimes much more.
Removing Plastic From The Marine Environment
Plastic is non-biodegradable, this means that it only breaks down into smaller and smaller bits until it is eventually ingested by birds and fish because it resembles their natural food source, zooplankton. If it reaches micron-sized particles then it is eventually ingested by filter feeders such as various types of invertebrates.
Since plastics in the ocean environment remain there, we must not only develop ways to stop them from reaching the ocean in first place, but also how to remove the plastic debris that is already there.
Encouraging Students To Look For Solutions
When it comes to global environmental challenges, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, however one person can make a huge difference in even this field. One such example is Boyan Slat, whom founded the Ocean Cleanup at 19 years old, and has proceeded to provide the world with the most realistic and implementable solutions for cleaning the plastic out of the gyre. The Ocean Cleanup has embarked upon its mega mission to clean the worlds oceans in 2015, and is set to fully begin its clean up in 2020.
Boyan has proved to the world that one persons dedication, passion and commitment are all you need to change the world.
One of the first requirements is to get in the habit of thinking positively, and looking for the good and positive aspects to life, even in regards to something as huge and discouraging as the polluted state of the ocean.
Small activities and exercises can help students get in the habit of seeing the world in a positive light, learning to see all challenging situations as opportunities for growth, change and learning.
Creating Think Tanks and Rewarding Creative Problem Solving
Mountain and Sea Adventures has been running outdoor education environmental science camps on Catalina Island for over 20 years, and providing hands-on learning opportunities, which develop a personal love and understanding for the marine environment.
Every school that comes to our science camp at Emerald Bay has the opportunity to spend time learning about the current challenge to the ocean in the form of plastic pollution, and its impact on marine wildlife. After watching a very interesting and educational documentary about the topic, breakout groups are formed giving each and every student the opportunity to brainstorm solutions together. After developing ideas each breakout group is given the chance to present their ideas to the whole group.
This gets the students not only thinking and talking about what they can do, but discussing it among each other as a group and as a class. This has led to the formation of countless green clubs and environmental school-wide efforts, as students are excited to take the momentum they built at camp back into their homes, towns and schools.