Photo: Susan White / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Written byTori Glascock
Before there was a waste collection system in place on land, trash was left in the streets and disease was rampant. Similarly, the trash we are dumping into the ocean is having catastrophic effects on the animals that call the ocean home and the people who rely on oceanic ecosystems to sustain their livelihood.
Chief among the problems that ocean trash presents is the inability of ocean animals like sea turtles, seabirds and seals to distinguish what is food and what is trash. First and foremost, these animals should not have to make this distinction as there should not be such an abundance of our trash in the ocean—but we are passed that point and now must find ways to combat this issue.
Each year an estimated 8 million metric tons, or 17 billion pounds, of plastic flows into the ocean. Enough is enough.
First and foremost, an endless flow of trash into the ocean will affect the health of humans and wildlife alike as well as compromise the livelihoods that depend on a healthy ocean. Trash and debris such as fishing gear, straws, and plastic bags pose a deadly threat to marine life. Fishing gear can trap helpless sea turtles and cut through flesh of whales, while plastic bags are easily mistaken as food and consumed by animals. Straws can be hazardous in that they can get stuck in a nostril, a blowhole, an eye, or even a throat.
Every 60 seconds, what amounts to roughly a garbage truck full of plastic makes its way into the ocean. That means that over the next year about 8 million tons of plastic will enter the ocean, creating a massive amount of marine pollution.
It’s estimated that if we don’t do anything to address this source of pollution, there will be one pound of plastic for every three pounds of fish in the ocean by 2025.
Preventing further damage to our oceans will require a coordinated global effort, and the United States has a vital role to play in leading this charge.
It’s a bird! It’s a pile of trash! It’s…a bird made out of a pile of trash?
Plastic pollution is a growing threat to our ocean, with an estimated eight million metric tons of plastic waste flowing from land into the ocean every year. This means that by 2025 there could be one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish! And there’s much more to the problem than floating bags, bottles and fishing nets—as many as 51 trillion pieces of microplastic (plastic pieces less than five mm) now circulate in the ocean.
Every day, all over the world, concerned people take the problem into their own hands by cleaning up their local waterways. This summer, the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. has developed a unique method of displaying the collected debris and raising awareness about the problem of ocean trash.
There’s no doubt about it: ocean plastic pollution is a big problem. An estimated eight million metric tons of plastic waste flow from land into the ocean every year, meaning that by 2025 there could be one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish! And there’s much more to the problem than floating bags, bottles and fishing nets—as many as 51 trillion pieces of microplastic (plastic pieces less than five mm) now circulate in the ocean.
Big problems call for creative solutions. To truly make an impact in the problem of ocean plastic pollution, we have to attack it from multiple directions. This includes minimizing the amount of plastic waste we create, managing our waste to prevent plastic pollution from leaking into the ocean and mitigating the existing marine debris through active cleanup and restoration efforts.
Once again, the time has come to share the results of last year’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC)! This is an especially exciting year for the Ocean Trash Index because we’re celebrating the Cleanup’s 30th anniversary!
Each year, I’m amazed by the number of people who care about the health of our ocean. During the 2015 ICC, 791,336 people removed 18,062,911 pounds of trash from 25,188 miles of coast around the world. These volunteers collected trash on their local beaches and waterways and provided Ocean Conservancy with a snapshot of the most persistent forms of trash found along the beaches and waterways that’s impacting our ocean.
True confessions: I’m secretly a total Harry Potter nerd. Okay, maybe it’s not so secret… (#TeamHufflepuff anyone?) Which is why I did a literal happy dance in my living room when I saw Emma Watson’s gown for last night’s Met Gala.