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News | Aug. 18, 2022

Turning the tide on trash: installation environmental office shares message on the ocean’s plastic

DSCC Environmental Division

Plastic is prolific in everyday life. Yet widespread use may ultimately impair environmental sustainability as these products find their ways into our oceans, lakes and rivers.

The good news is that plastics that are disposed of properly largely avoid entering waterways and the food chain.

The Defense Supply Center Columbus remains committed to sustaining land, air and water resources through a variety of initiatives supported by the Environmental Management System. Among these objectives is diverting solid waste from landfills through robust recycle, reduce and reuse efforts, and educating the DSCC workforce on the importance of a healthy environment.  

Today, there are an estimated 150 million metric tons of plastic circulating in our oceans. Each year, an additional eight million metric tons of plastic ends up in the ocean – the equivalent to a garbage truck of plastic being added each minute, according to the Ocean Conservancy. Nearly 70 percent of waste in the ocean sinks to the bottom and the rest remains on the surface to be carried by ocean currents.

The Plastic Ocean Project reports that nearly 50,000 pieces of plastic float within every square mile of the world’s oceans. You may wonder how that much plastic ends up there. Surprisingly, there are only six degrees of separation between yourself as the user and the world’s oceans.

Ocean-bound, floating plastics are concentrated within gyres. A gyre is a large system of circulating ocean currents that form very large, circular whirlpools. Five gyres are present within the world’s oceans. Listen to this podcast produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to learn more about how gyres take our trash out to sea.

In the North Pacific Gyre, the Ocean Conservancy states plastic pieces come mainly from four sources: plastic bags, bottle caps, plastic water bottles and styrofoam. Once within the gyres, the plastic pieces float around. Plastics are different from other materials that make up ocean debris. They don’t biodegrade the way other materials do. Instead of being broken down naturally by other organisms, plastics are broken down into smaller and smaller pieces by the sun, wind and waves but they never break down entirely.

The remaining plastic eventually becomes small enough to be ingested by aquatic organisms. And, once eaten, it enters the food chain.

A University of Newcastle study found that, on average, people could be ingesting approximately five grams of plastic every week – which is the equivalent in weight of a credit card. Additionally, the study suggests that people consume about 100,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year.

Plastic pollution remains a major threat to wildlife and waterways through microplastic ingestion, habitat destruction and economic consequences.

The DSCC Environmental Division encourages all employees to do their part by participating in recycle, reduce and reuse programs. Plastics collected from bins on DSCC are taken to collection centers, compressed into bales, melted and recycled into new items. For issues with bins contact the environmental office.

The following materials can be recycled at DSCC: cardboard, metal, plastic, wood pallets, paper and yard waste.

For more information or to become involved in environmental concerns on the installation, consider joining the DSCC Environmental Coordination Committee.

This committee is open to all associates who work on DSCC. It meets semi-annually to discuss environmental initiatives and answer any questions members might have regarding environmental concerns. Contact the environmental office for more information.