At Sea Turtle Camp, we often talk about plastics. And that is because it is a big problem. Plastics persist all over the planet in landfills, national parks, lakes, streams, beaches, and obviously the ocean. It has entangled turtles, been ingested by whales, and is working its way up the food chain. Plastics are such an enormous issue, that they now even have a United Nations classification – of statehood.
Earlier this month, the United Nations convened and agreed to grant statehood to the Garbage Patch. Their designation of this accumulation of plastics is not just for Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the most well-known of the marine debris fields, but to all five of the known man-made floating nations in the North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
These newly appointed federal states, whose area covers many square miles, will have a population of 36,939. Its citizens are the tons of garbage present in the oceans. The flag, a simple, understated blue field in representation of a cleaner ocean that once existed. They have nicknamed this new federation the “away state”.
Obviously, this designation is symbolic in nature, and the Garbage Patch is far from habitable. It began through a collaborative effort between the University Ca’ Foscari of Venice, the Italian Ministry of the Environment, and the University of Rome. The hope is that this will bring attention to the pervasive problem of marine debris. Even though it is the “Away State”, we should neglect how significant this problem is and how it is inherently a man-made issue.
Since the 1960s the amount of plastic waste in the oceans has increased dramatically. Prior to that, plastic use was negligible, as the polymer chemical hadn’t yet been perfected. And all the plastics from the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and today is all still out there. There is nothing on the planet that can biodegrade plastic. It only breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces (photedegradation), which means it enters the food chain and lower and lower rungs. This isn’t just a trash heap; it’s a threat to ocean health.
So yes, at Sea Turtle Camp we talk a lot about plastics, but thankfully, it is an area that campers can see a significant impact from changes in their consumption.