A professor from the University of Georgia, Dr. Jenna Jambeck, published an article in the popular magazine Science that defined “ocean-bound” as a principle for understanding both the track and impact of plastic pollution. The article, available by logging in here, shines light on the existence of plastic in our ecosystem and also on its track through (or around) our treatment systems.
Ultimately, the majority of plastic does not end up in the ocean but in various other pockets of our ecosystem.
As the research and technology has expanded over the past 5 years since this article was published, advanced processes and systems have been put in place to help members of the scientific community — members like Dr. Jambeck — study, track, and solve the plastic pollution conundrum in front of us. Plastic is still entering our ecosystem. Metric ton upon metric ton of it is still ending up in our oceans, but much of it ends up in freshwater sources and in other deposits around the globe.
Ocean-bound plastic is only part of the problem!
We could (and eventually will) dig deeper into exactly where plastics released into our ecosystem are ending up. The argument posed in Sustainable Brands, for instance, contends that ocean-bound is a far too limiting term, as it limits the conversation to pieces of garbage (in this instance, plastic garbage) that are literally being tossed directly into the ocean or are being washed into it before much times passes. It does not unpack the journey of the plastic spoon that is thrown onto the ground just a few miles inland from the coast.
And it’s garbage that is not being properly categorized or managed that needs to be part of the bigger conversation. It’s leading many environmentalists to change their understanding of what an honest conversation about plastic pollution really entails.
A comprehensive plan to solve plastic pollution is about much more than the plastic in our oceans. It’s about the plastic in our world.