Welcome to the war on ocean plastic. You’ve probably seen plastic littered almost everywhere you go, from your highways and streets to your local beach. Most of these plastics find their way to the water and this cause major problems. Problems not just for the marine life, but for us humans and the earth herself.
How Much Plastic Makes Its Way To The ocean?
8 million tons of plastic make its way to the ocean every year. These plastics enter the water as full products such as plastic bags and bottles however plastic can also enter the ocean as micro-plastics. Micro-plastics are small pieces of plastic under 5 millimeters in length.
What Problems Does This Cause?
Over 1 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean. Marine life can mistake plastics for food and die because plastic will not be broken down in the body. Animals can also get caught in plastic products disabling them from moving or breathing. Plastics in the ocean also effects the health of humans. The toxins that come from plastics and other waste make its way to sea life and when humans consume contaminated sea foods they risk suffering sickness. Plastic also ruins the natural health and beauty of natural habitats and besides that large plastic patches can heat the water and may contribute to global warming.
If you thought plastics in the ocean only effected small animals, thats just not true. Recently a whale was found beached and dead in the Philippines. What was found inside was shocking. 88 pounds of plastic had been consumed and trapped inside this whale, and it had been in there so long is was described as a “solid brick”. The plastic inside the whale gives it a false feeling of fullness and as time goes on the whale becomes weaker and weaker. This is not the first or last whale to have been found with large amounts of plastic inside it. In march of this year a pregnant sperm whale was found dead off the coast of Italy with almost 50 pounds of plastic in its belly.
Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources
By 2022 the UN plans to eliminate wasteful usage of one use plastics and get rid of micro-plastics in cosmetic items and more. The UN recently launched #CleanSeas global campaign. This campaign calls upon governments to change or implement polices that would contribute to reducing plastic use. It also plans to influence people to change their throwaway habits.
This goal also targets to minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, conserve for coastal and marine areas, address destructive and illegal fishing ,and more
On April 7th I was fortunate enough to get a brief yet unique opportunity to talk to a life guard (who chose to remain anonymous) in Oahu, Hawaii and here is what he had to say about trash in the ocean…
“What problems with trash do you see in the ocean?”
Lifeguard: “You see, the problems I see on our beaches and in our ocean is that you can always find trash, it’s everywhere and it’s very upsetting.”
“What’s being done about all this pollution?”
Lifeguard: “To be honest with you… not enough is being done to clean up and keep the beaches clean. There are people and small groups that go out and make an effort but unfortunately the masses are not contributing to the solution. People litter here all the time and the plastics that don’t get thrown away stick around for a long time despite the efforts to clean them up.”
“Do you think that raising awareness of the immediate and long term problems caused by littering, especially plastics, would help people practice responsible throw-away habits?”
Lifeguard: “Absolutely, I believe that there should be more advertisements that highlight just how bad the pollution is here and how much worse it will get if we don’t change our ways soon. I also think that there should be more trash cans so people don’t have an excuse not to properly throw their garbage away. There should also be services that take on the responsibility of properly collecting this waste and there should be punishment for leaving your trash on the beach or not throwing it away.”
“Awesome information, thank you for taking the time to talk to me about this and hopefully we can be in contact soon about some positive change on the beaches”
Lifeguard: “Absolutely, Thank you for reaching out!”
Recently I was fortunate enough to travel to Thailand and Indonesia and I had the opportunity to observe the local water ways and beaches. Not to my surprise they were filled with trash. These places lack policies, laws, enforcement, and also lack knowledge on properly throwing trash away. Its unfortunate. Coming back to Japan and seeing the extreme difference in trash disposal really made me feel lucky and full of pride. That is why I am so excited to participate in an upcoming beach clean up. The opportunity to support my local community is a great one, and hopefully one day I will have the opportunity to contribute in the trash clean ups in places of need around the world.
Call to action
Support your local beaches and sign up for a beach clean up. There are many beach clean up accounts on twitter that send notifications of upcoming events near you. These accounts also support other clean up organizations and help make you aware of how you can help out. Beach clean ups help rid your local spots of trash and prevent further build up. These volunteer events are also great for your record as it shows you are a community contributor.
An example of one of these accounts is The “Irvine Clean up Crew” which is making strides to not only clean up their local beach, but make their town a better place. You can check them out yourself on twitter and you can even take a moment to find a beach clean up account supporting your local area!