“The world does use the ocean as its toilet, and then expects that toilet to feed it,” M. Sanjayan
Good point! Ever think of that? “Fish supply the greatest percentage of the world’s protein consumed by humans (24) and more than 3.5 billion people depend on the ocean for their primary source of food. In 20 years, this number could double to 7 billion (42)”.
To begin, I would like for everyone to be in agreement that littering is bad. It causes sanitary issues, it’s dangerous for animals, not to mention it’s an eyesore.
So then why do we let so much waste contribute to what we feed ourselves? 80% of water pollution comes from land waste (27). We can literally help the entire world if we stop letting trash, plastics, and chemicals enter our oceans.
You can see how this is becoming a problem.
The Great Pacific garbage patch is a giant blob of garbage that’s in a vortex-like movement in the central North Pacific Ocean. I found this picture a couple years ago when my brother first told me about it, and I think it depicts a sort of sadness that’s so real and easy to blame on carelessness.
The garbage patches in our oceans are a secret to many, probably because much of the pollution is not visible from a boat dock. Plastics break down and their dangerous chemicals often lurk just beneath the surface of water, making it tough to calculate the exact size of the problem areas.
The Ocean Conservancy hosts an International Costal Cleanup each year, and not only do they take the time to pick up the trash, they also count it. Here are a couple visuals on what they found in 2012:
Gross. Cigarettes? And so much plastic that can be eliminated easily by using reusable products such as water bottles and bags!!
The thing is, this isn’t something you can brush off because “it doesn’t affect me”. It affects the entire world! Because most of us eat food that comes from the ocean, we are consuming the same harmful chemicals and plastics that marine life consume deliberately or by accident.
One obvious, macroscopic trouble with the garbage in the ocean is that the waste is making the search for the missing Malaysia Flight 370 more difficult. It’s difficult to distinguish, especially from satellite footage, what is airplane and what is massive trash pile.
“It’s like looking for a needle in a needle factory” says Conservation International senior scientist M. Sanjayan on the difficulty of finding the aircraft in the ocean.
Over a third of the world’s population of 7 billion live within 60 miles of an ocean, increasing the chances of their waste finding its way to the oceans.
It’s easy for a seemingly small contribution to make such an influence on marine life, but they often mistake the plastics for food and often times don’t even know they are ingesting the harmful chemicals and broken down plastics that end up harmful to their bodies.
What can you do?
- Put a lid on trash cans to prevent wind or animals from spreading waste.
- Use a reusable water bottle instead of plastic bottles of water.
- Place cigarette butts in an ashtray to avoid them from littering land and water
- Get talking! Because not everyone lives near an ocean, it may be easy for the effects to be out of sight out of mind to some people. Remind people that littering not only looks bad, but it eventually comes back to effect them negatively too.
- Sustainability is about using less processed materials; take re-used or re-usable canvas bags when you go to the grocery store. They are more convenient for you in the end anyway! Nobody likes those sticky plastic bags (especially the kids at the grocery store bagging your groceries– trust me, I used to be one of those kids; those bags suck!)
- Recycle. Take the time to separate items that can be recycled, such as plastics, glass, and cardboard. Some places will give you money in exchange for cans, but if not, it at least saves room for real garbage in your garbage cans. I always thought putting plastic bottles in the trash can took up way too much room.
Also check out BeCause Water, an organized movement for water sustainability.
Peace and clean water.