Trash in ocean could complicate search for AirAsia plane

As ocean pollution goes, the debris from the planes are just drops in the bucket.

NEW YORK (CNN) – Trash is a massive environmental problem facing the world’s oceans.

“The oceans are littered with trash and it’s unfortunate that it’s taken this human tragedy to highlight it,” said Anna Cummins, Executive Director, 5 Gyres Institute.

For Aviation, 2014 was scarred by the disappearance of two planes over open water. The hunt for AirAsia flight 8501 in the Java Sea and Malaysia Air flight 370 in the Indian Ocean has given the world a good look at the trashed conditions of our oceans. During the search for any signs of the aircraft, objects floating in the water turned out to be junk, discarded nets, and old buoys among a myriad of items.

“The biggest offender is plastic pollution, roughly 80 to 90 percent of the debris in our ocean is plastic and the worst of it is that people don’t realize that this is not just unsightly, this plastic pollution is getting into the food chain and may ultimately be affecting our health,” said Cummins. “Roughly 660 species today, and that is a conservative estimate, are affected by plastic. They either get tangled in it or they’re ingesting it. It’s a lot of single use disposables and packaging and what’s really insidious about it is plastic in the ocean doesn’t disappear; it acts like a sponge for contaminants.”

In the Pacific Ocean alone, NOAA says massive patches of garbage swirl about between California and Hawaii. There are international laws that prohibit dumping plastics in the ocean. The problem is enforcement. Countries need to crack down on pollution. And there’s another issue: The vast ocean waters are very difficult to police.

“All over the world are realizing we just cannot afford the convenience of single use plastics and companies need to start taking responsibility for what happens to their products after they leave the consumers’ hands,” said Cummins.

As for the AirAsia jet and MH370, what impact will they have on these bodies of water? Cummins says as ocean pollution goes, the debris from the planes are just drops in the bucket.

“The bigger problem is what starts here on land. Roughly 80 percent of the plastic pollution that we find in the ocean starts on land. It’s as simple as the debris we see here in the sand, the cigarette butts, the straws, the forks, the bottles, the bags,” said Cummins.

Some common items that may help daily life but pose a threat to our oceans.

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