Trash. It sucks. People make it, talk it, and dump it. It’s complete garbage. And you know that expression “ one person’s trash is another person’s treasure”? Well guess what. That doesn’t apply to our friendly ocean neighbors. It would be more accurate to say “one person’s trash is a sea turtle’s poison.”
We need to get better at disposing of our trash in a way that makes it more “treasure” and less “poison.” Plastic waste bits, specifically tiny fragments called “microplastics,” are a huge source of pollution in the ocean. Ocean predators, specifically turtles and fish, mistake this plastic for tasty zooplankton and ingest it. The plastic can then either get physically stuck in the digestive system, or the chemicals contained in the plastic can seep into the animal’s bloodstream and tissue. Either way, this causes the animal a lot of pain and sometimes death.
A new report by The Ocean Conservancy entitled “Stemming the Tide” claims that virtually every marine species has a bit of plastic in in. The report also claimed that a large portion of the plastic in our oceans originates from five specific countries: China, Indonesia, The Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand. These coastal countries all have rapidly developing economies that are creating a lot of plastic waste. However, there’s a great opportunity here to work with these countries and potentially cut off a large supply of plastic pollution at the source.
The report estimates that if these nations reduce their plastic consumption by 65%, that will translate to a 45% reduction in marine plastic pollution. We can do this by stressing the importance of reusable materials and cutting down on the demand for single use plastics, especially in countries with emerging economies. And even though these five Pacific nations create the majority of the plastics that end up in our ocean, practically every other country contributes in some way. This means that wherever you live, there’s something you can do to clean up our oceans.
The biggest change you can make is moving away from single-use plastics to reusable materials. Try going one week without using a plastic water or Gatorade bottle, and see how easy it is to make that change on a small scale. You can also sign up to receive my “10 Tips for Living an Ocean Friendly Life” document by texting “Conservemyoceans” to 33444. By slowly starting to practice more ocean-friendly methods of consumption, we can all work towards creating healthier and more productive marine ecosystems. And only by ensuring the health of our oceans can we ensure the health of our planet and our society.
You can read the full report by the Ocean Conservancy here.