53,333 blue whales. 1,333,333 elephants. 615,384 school buses. What do all of these numbers have in common? Take a minute, think about it. What could blue whales, elephants, and school buses possibly have in common? We’ll give you a hint: they’re all really heavy. Give up? Well, that number of blue whales, elephants, and school buses is how many of each of those add up to 8 million metric tons. But what’s the significance of 8 million metric tons? What could possibly weigh that much? That’s the amount of plastic waste that is dumped into oceans every single year. Isn’t that shocking? To put this in perspective, there are only 25,000 blue whales left in the world. That means we dump twice the weight of the world’s living blue whales’ worth of plastic into the oceans each year. It’s mind-boggling!
We all know that marine plastic pollution is a worldwide issue that not only threatens marine wildlife, but humans as well. Any plastic that is consumed by marine animals that humans then consume as seafood has the potential to transfer harmful effects to us. One of the easiest ways to help plug the plastic faucet at its source is to choose products that are made from marine degradable materials. But what does marine degradable mean? Basically, a product that is certified for biodegradation in a marine environment will either list successful passing of ASTM D6691–an American test standard for marine biodegradation–or will show a TUV OK biodegradable MARINE certification. The difficult catch in marine certification is that organizations don’t want to encourage people to toss trash in the ocean just because it will biodegrade. Therefore, the OK MARINE certification can only be reported for products that are meant for marine usage (like fishing gear for example).
When products or materials are marine degradable, this means they will disintegrate (ie, physically break down) into pieces smaller than 2mm in just 3 months, and will be completely biodegraded (ie, chemically broken down to innocuous elements and compounds) in under 6 months. This makes these materials much less likely to harm marine wildlife. From plastic bags, to microplastics, to balloons, to kilograms of congealed plastic waste–any of these have the potential to be fatal to marine life. In fact, in 2006 a Cuvier’s beaked whale was found dead after a single plastic bag entangled its intestines. A whale was taken down by a single plastic bag. We tend to brush off animal deaths that are caused by plastic internally; if we can’t visually look at it and see the damage that plastics have done, then plastics aren’t at fault, and we can continue justifying their usage to provide convenience for ourselves . But these animals deserve an ecosystem where they don’t need to worry about consuming something that clearly resembles food but will eventually kill them.
It’s a tough position to be in. While we want to have the convenience of single-use plastic products, we do so at the expense of our oceans and marine wildlife. At UrthPact, it’s our goal to keep 25 billion pieces of plastic from oceans and landfills. And while this is just a tiny dent in the 51 trillion pieces that are already floating around in our oceans, we want to do everything in our power to make a difference. Every single straw, coffee pod, or piece of cutlery we produce and sell is one less plastic piece headed to a landfill or the ocean. Each little dent we make is a piece of the larger solution. By beginning the transfer over to marine degradable and compostable materials, we truly have solved the single-use plastics problem. Now, we just have to share that solution with the world. Things are changing. What can you do to make a difference?