That’s because we’ve reached the point where plastic is no longer a necessary convenience but a deadly complication. Global production of plastic has now tripled from around 100 million metric tons in 1989 to over 335 million metric tons today. Alarmingly, it’s not being recycled! About 91% of the plastic produced goes to landfill sites or is burned or thrown away.
No wonder we have islands of plastic trash the size of Texas floating on our seas. The sheer amount of plastic waste is killing our marine wildlife. And if you’re thinking we’re safe from it all, you’re wrong because we are now finally pooping plastic.
In view of this frightening realization that plastic has overtaken us and that present ambitious efforts have failed (here’s looking at you, Wilson, old chap), I’ve updated my old post on what we can really do in order to keep our seas trash-free.
Yes, I know: our seas are no longer trash-free. But someone pointed out online that this is no longer a matter of keeping out the trash from the waters but rather keeping out new trash from coming in. Because the islands of trash we have floating around now? It’s going to take years to clean that up. And we can’t have an endless stream of waste coming into our seas if they are to recover.
So here’s the checklist.
These are doable actions that can be done by anyone, surfer or not.
1. Use trash cans with lids
2. Drink tap water
3. Advocate for ocean-friendly legislation
4. Participate in beach clean-ups
5. Sort and recycle your trash
6. Refuse single-use plastics
7. Reuse your stuff
8. Reinvent materials, Make them eco-friendly
9. Donate to environmental causes
10. Persuade people to stop littering
1. THINGS YOU CAN DO FOR TRASH FREE SEAS - Use Trash Cans with Lids
When throwing out the trash, put it in trash cans with lids. Because most of our wastes these days consist of lightweight plastic packaging, it can easily be blown away if it’s not contained well. In fact, if you’re throwing your garbage into a lidless can, you’re improperly disposing your trash. Garbage that’s improperly disposed may potentially end up in streets, or waterways, where it will be dumped into the sea.
This is also true for overfilled trash cans at public parks or during concerts. Land-based sources of plastic debris actually account for 80% of the plastic found in our oceans. For as long as we’re carelessly dumping our wastes around, we’ll never be able to stop them from reaching the waters.
2. THINGS YOU CAN DO FOR TRASH FREE SEAS - Drink Tap Water
Drinking tap water allows you to do away with buying bottled mineral water. Single use mineral water bottles account for much of the plastic that finds its way into the ocean and killing the marine life. In fact, figures show that about 14% of all litter comes from plastic beverage containers.
Plastic bottles are also risky for your health. They are usually produced from polyethylene terephthalate, or PET. The manufacturing process results in toxic by-products, like nickel, ethylbenzene, ethylene oxide and benzene, which are released into the air. The Berkeley Plastics Task Force reported that making a 16-ounce bottle out of PET creates more than 100 times as much air and water pollution as making the bottle out of glass. Even worse, some of the toxic chemicals in the plastic can leach out over time into the water inside – particularly if the bottle is rinsed and reused.
So it’s more risky drinking bottled mineral water. My advice, drink from tap and if you need to carry a water bottle around, use glass.
3. THINGS YOU CAN DO FOR TRASH FREE SEAS - Advocate for Ocean-Friendly Legislation
Read up on our environmental laws and how to advocate for environment friendly legislation. This Atlantic piece is an excellent reading material to jumpstart you on your advocacy. With a new batch of representatives in Congress, we can expect a much more conducive discourse on how to protect our environment.
Write to them and ask them to create or support legislation that keeps our seas sustainable and healthy. A suggestion I found among several online websites is to campaign for a large-scale rezoning of ocean ecosystems. This will allow our waters to recover and be sustainable in the long-term.
4. THINGS YOU CAN DO FOR TRASH FREE SEAS - Participate in Beach Clean Ups
A lot of plastic trash also ends up in our beaches where they pose a health risk not only to beachgoers but also to the coastal wildlife. The beach ecosystem is very important because they provide a lot of environmental services not only to the communities near the coast but also to the wildlife. But it’s also fragile, which why it must also be protected from plastic pollution.
Beach clean-ups may seem like a useless task; after all, when the tides come in the next day, they bring new batches of plastic trash. But these events provide an opportunity for people to see the impact of plastic pollution along our coasts. By showing people the effects of their actions, we can motivate them to change their habits enough to create a movement to stop the flow of plastic at its source: which happens to be ourselves.
5. THINGS YOU CAN DO FOR TRASH FREE SEAS - Sort and Recycle your Trash
Sorting and recycling are two different things. But doing both allows us to reduce the level of plastic pollution that is released to the environment.
When we sort our garbage between what is recyclable and what is not, we minimize the amount of stuff that we send to the landfill. This is important because overfilled landfills are an environmental and health hazard.
Garbage can emit toxic and infectious gasses which can cause respiratory diseases. Similarly, toxic liquids seeping from landfills can also poison the water table or cause water-borne diseases among those drinking the polluted water.
When we recycle, we reduce our carbon emissions. We save energy and water, and improve their quality. Recyclable wastes, that would otherwise be burnt and release more carbon, end up being used again. This helps saves our natural resources and is cost-effective in the long run.
6. THINGS YOU CAN DO FOR TRASH FREE SEAS - Refuse to Use Single-Use Plastics
This means not using water bottles, take-out packaging, plastic bags, straws and disposable razors. Each year, there are 8 million tons of plastic being dumped into our seas and guess what, a lot of them happen to be the stuff that I just mentioned. If we try to reduce our use of even just one plastic product, it can go a long way into preventing more garbage from reaching the sea.
For example, if every American sipped out of just five fewer straws per year, we can keep more than 1.5 billion straws out of our landfills-and our ocean.
7. THINGS YOU CAN DO FOR TRASH FREE SEAS - Reuse Your Stuff
In fact, reusing is even better than recycling. That’s because it saves energy that you would otherwise use when dismantling and recycling products. It also significantly reduces waste and pollution because you don’t need raw materials. Even better, it promotes quality over quantity, according to OneGreenPlanet. Rather than promoting a consumerist culture where people are driven to buy, shop and hoard recklessly, reusing allows us to buy stuff that really matter and are durable so that they can be handed down and reused for generations.
8. THINGS YOU CAN DO FOR TRASH FREE SEAS - Reinvent Materials, Make them Eco-friendly
So much of our manufacturing today relies on fossil fuels which end up warming our atmosphere and poisoning our environment with its toxic by-products. In the surfing industry alone, most of its surfing gear are made with a high carbon footprint.
The good news is, there’s now a demand for eco-friendly products. And I’m proud to say that Wave Tribe is part of the growing movement that develops alternative gear for surfers using eco-friendly resources so that we don’t become part of the global warming problem or be complicit in the death of our marine wildlife by plastic.
From developing our hemp-based travel surfing bags, to recycling leashes, and to creating our organic surf waxes, Wave Tribe is determined at making the surfing experience eco-friendly for everyone. In this era of climate change, it’s not just a business imperative for us. It’s also a moral one.
9. THINGS YOU CAN DO FOR TRASH FREE SEAS - Donate to Environmental Causes
If you’ve got money to spare, then support causes which protect the environment, specifically our oceans. There are many institutes and organizations which are fighting to protect ocean habitats and marine wildlife. Find a national organization and donate. Or you can volunteer for hands-on work if you happen to live near the coasts and want to do active advocacy or conservation work.
Here at Wave Tribe, we have always supported and partnered with organizations that share our drive to protect the oceans. In fact, we put up a HELP OCEAN page so that people can choose which organizations to support if they are in a giving mood. Please check it out and see if you can find a project that you would like to support.
10. THINGS YOU CAN DO FOR TRASH FREE SEAS - Persuade People to Stop Littering
Speak out and influence others. Being an advocate for the ocean can be as simple as speaking out about the importance of the marine ecosystem. Tell everyone why the ocean matters and ask people to stop littering. Most experts agree that even if current ocean clean-up initiatives succeed, it still won’t be able to address the endless stream of plastic entering our oceans. And every year, it grows bigger.
Persuading people to stop littering is the next best solution and a more practical approach to protecting the oceans. By stopping plastic pollution at the source, we can stem the tide, so to speak, so that our seas can begin to recover.