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  • Writer's pictureArielle Kouyoumdjian

Environmental Journalism Spotlight: Joy Zhang



Article by Joy Zhang

Nysmith School 


A single piece of plastic could be the death of a marine animal. Since plastic was invented, it has become a very practical everyday material that we use. Now, everyone has taken it for granted and become unaware of the dangerous consequences this polymer bears. 


Dangers of Plastic:

The benefit of plastic is also its curse. Plastic isn’t biodegradable which means that, unlike most waste, it doesn’t fully decompose. Instead, it breaks down into tinier and tinier pieces through a process called photodegradation. This is where the plastic material absorbs the UV rays from the sun which causes it to break down into smaller pieces. Another factor of the plastic breaking down is time. It just floats there in the ocean and gets tossed around, it slowly “decays” into smaller pieces of itself. The small pieces are very harmful to all aquatic life due to their misconception of the plastics being the tiny organisms they feed on. They can choke and die or get stuck in bigger structures. The “Great Garbage Patch”, which is 3 times the size of France In the Pacific ocean, is among one of the biggest patches of plastic on earth. Fishing nets trap and choke aquatic life while and when plastics get into an animal's digestive system, they stop eating because the plastic doesn’t biodegrade. The plastic is consumed by fish which get consumed by larger animals that we eat. As a result, plastics are ultimately making it into the human diet.  

How Does Plastic Get Into Our Oceans?

Plastic takes long journeys to end up in our oceans. After they’ve been used, water bottles and other plastic waste is not properly disposed of, causing it to travel into streams, rivers and oceans from surface runoff. Even if plastics do get recycled, it is expensive, time-consuming and utilizes a large amount of water and energy. Most countries are not capable of handling the massive volume of plastics disposed of each day which is why the recycled plastics still end up in the ocean after all. 


Ways You Can Help:

So, how can we as individuals help reduce the amount of plastic that is in the ocean? 

  • Stop/reduce use of single use plastics (e.g. Replacing plastic bags with cloth or leather bags. Replacing plastic cups/straws with metal straws).

  • Attend community cleanups and spread awareness.

  • Support bans on plastic bags and straws. 

  • Reuse and recycle packaging

  • Avoid products that contain microbeads (they are microplastics)

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2 Comments


Glenn Erb
Glenn Erb
May 26

Very interesting! I never really thought about how the small animals in the food chain consuming plastic end up meaning every other step in the food chain is therefore contaminated. Really makes you think how can I do better and stop contributing to the problem?

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Arielle Kouyoumdjian
Arielle Kouyoumdjian
May 26
Replying to

Absolutely! The best articles are the ones that make you think about things you've never thought of...

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