Plastics of all shapes, sizes and colors are among the many pieces of trash that makes its way along the coastal shores and at our ocean beaches where we plan to spend time relaxing and basking in the sun. This kind of trash is not only resting on the bottom of the ocean, but pieces are floating on top as well. Even places that are remote have plastic pollution issues.
It is hard to fathom that people dispose of 60,000 plastic bags within five seconds, two million plastic bottles in five minutes, and one million plastic cups used by travelers on airplanes every six hours.
To restore and maintain the beauty of our coastlines and beaches is time consuming and very costly. Plastics are not products that are biodegradable in sea water. The question becomes,who is responsible for maintaining “our special places of retreat for fun and serenity” and doing the clean up if necessary?
Signs of trash along our coastal shores and in the oceans were observed as early as the 1970’s. As research studies are continually being conducted, the reports of five grocery bags of plastics per square foot is an absolutely amazing statistic. What is even more amazing is that 80 percent of the trash, which contains a lot of plastics, that ends up along the coastlines and in the oceans, came from littering that occurs on land. The National Resources Defense Council discovered that California spends $428 million to ensure pollution is given optimal attention. Would this be necessary if everyone became more personally responsible for handling their own trash items?
Unfortunately, our beautiful coastlines are being destroyed by these bits of plastic pieces as water currents carry them to so many places, including every ecosystem. It is staggering to think that the dumping along our coastlines occurs every year and could possibly double. There could be 155 metric tons by 2025. Just to think that this could possibly happen is mind blowing.
Plastics are composed of petroleum and other toxic chemicals. As pieces of plastics are tossed about and lie in the saltwater baking in the hot sun, it breaks up into small pieces and those pieces become toxic. Besides maintaining the ocean and the coastline’s serene beauty and the movement of debris, even more importantly, researchers are concerned about the impact to marine life. The marine life animals that consume plastic pollution choke or even die. Other animals may simply starve. What about the fish and the possibility of absorbing these plastic pieces? Could this ultimately end up affecting the fish that consumers buy?
Trash in the oceans was in the headlines when the search was being conducted for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. It became a valuable piece of information as debris was tracked over a ten-year period of time through a time-lapse video to determine where it would end up. If it becomes necessary to track plastics in places where the debris becomes an uncontrollable menace, it would be very disheartening to see closures to beaches.
This is not just a people problem, but this is a global concern. Working together, we must all take responsibility to stop plastic pollution. Businesses and governments must share the load of finding better ways to dispose of plastics. Consumers, all over the world, must find alternative to using the many plastic products in their daily routines. Above all, taking responsibility for what is used and how it is disposed of is, also, an essential step toward ceasing plastics pollution.
By: Marie A. Wakefield