Eight million tons of trash are dumped into the ocean every year, worldwide and a lot of that comes from us. It’s a bit depressing, but knowing if we have an addiction to throw-away trash, especially plastics is the first step in coming up with solutions. And the National Wildlife Refuge System has a way to help. They have created an Action Plan List that provides steps that you can take to change bad habits into sustainable practices and help to clean-up our ocean. Some of this sounds quite simple and it is, it’s just a matter of follow thru. (photo – Susan White/USFWS)
Action: Buy fresh and local. Avoid excess packaging. Use reusable cloth bags instead of plastic bags. Dispose of waste responsibly. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
There is nothing difficult about that, you are probably doing some of that already, I know that my family does. We recycle plastics, aluminum cans, cardboard, newspapers. We bring home groceries in reusable bags and if we need to use plastic produce bags we always make sure to recycle them. Its interesting that between composting kitchen waste and recycling you really do not have very much left over to go into the local landfill.
Throw-Away Plastic Can Travel to the Sea
We live in the country and a long way from the ocean, but we know that throw-away plastic trash has a long life and can travel its way eventually to the sea. And we have seen the results when we do visit the beach, for example on that winter break to the Costa Maya. Once you get away from the manicured beaches of Cancun and down the coast toward Belize and you find that ideal, secluded beach with the great snorkeling just offshore. And then you discover that the beach is thick with trash that has washed up from all across the Caribbean and even further. Plastic shoes from Morocco, plastic garbage bags from Haiti and suntan lotion bottles from just up the coast. (photo – Andy Collins/NOAA)
All of this debris is not only unpleasant to look at but it is devastating to marine mammals, and seabirds.
“Marine debris is one of the most pervasive and pernicious global threats to the health of the world’s coastal areas, oceans and waterways,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service deputy director Jim Kurth stated in his testimony before congress.
From Strangled Sea Turtles to Microbeads
We have seen the heartbreaking images of sea turtles strangled by plastic six-pack rings and seabirds that mistakenly feed their young more plastic than fish. We have learned from research about the micro-beads from cosmetics and toothpaste that are now ingested into fish that becomes someone’s seafood. See: If You Love Seafood – You Might Not Want to Read This.
Taking Part in Clean-Up Our Ocean
Action: Take part in the next International Coastal Cleanup — the largest volunteer effort for our oceans — on September 17. Or plan a small cleanup yourself. Find out how from the Ocean Conservancy.
“When trash gets in the mangroves, which make up a lot of our shoreline, it’s virtually impossible to clean out,” and “A lot of [the trash] is plastic,” says Kristi Killam, ranger in the Florida Keys “A lot of it is Styrofoam. All of it’s going to be here for a long time. Key deer, birds and other wildlife wander the shorelines. On a daily basis they get entangled in the trash and accidentally ingest it too.” Bottom line is that some trash clean-ups might present enormous challenges and demand creative solutions to clean -up our ocean. (photo – Kristi Killam/USFWS) See our Blue Ocean posts on creative uses of recovered ocean plastics, read: In the Swim with Plastics Recovered from the Sea
Challenging Clean-Ups Demand Creative Solutions
One program in Hawaii has a novel solution to the debris they collect, they burn it and create usable energy. Started in 2002, this program has burned over 800 tons of abandoned fishing nets and in the process has generated enough electricity to power 350 Hawaiian homes for a year. Off Florida’s west coast a similar program focuses on abandoned fishing gear and monofilament fishing line, a particular hazard to wildlife.
See the entire list of Oceans of Trash Action Items at The National Wildlife Refuge System website
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