Saturday the 16th of september was a big event for the environment. Every year on the 2nd or 3th Saturday of Septemberis International Coastal Clean Up Day. This day is internationally dedicated to addressing and bringing awareness to the problem of plastic waste and ocean pollution. Everywhere in the world, people meet up with one goal: taking action to prevent more plastic from entering the ocean. In MCP, we put a lot of heart and effort into cleaning our regional beaches and ocean. Dive and beach clean up are an important part of our activities each week. During this years international costal clean up, we collected more trash from our local beaches in one day then we have collected in a single day ever before. From just 5 locations, 594kgs of waste was collected and sorted hand in hand by our volunteers and the local communities. Shockingly, over half of it was plastics. That left us with mixed feelings. Joy, and determination feeling the mobilization of the people on one hand, but also real concern facing the sheer quantity of plastic waste.
Plastic waste, a major threat for the oceans.
Our oceans are endangered. Threats are coming from various direction (sadly mainly human influences, such as climate change, over-fishing, sedimentation, mining, pollution, etc.) but one of the most alarming is definitely ocean waste. Every year a staggering 8 million metric tons of garbage enters our oceans source, 80% of which comes from land based sources source. Without any intervention (such as reducing our waste), this rate will double in just 10 years, warns Ocean Conservancy. According to the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, by 2050, the total amount of plastic in our ocean will be greater than the total weight of fish(source)! The problem with all that waste isn’t just aesthetics, it is actually threatening the oceans ability to maintain life.
Industrially treated to fit their marketing purpose (looking pretty, smooth and durable) many objects that end up in the sea will be toxic to marine life (directly, or through affecting the PH balance of the water). Plastic is particularly problematic. It degrades slowly, breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces, being eaten by mistake by fish and other animals.
A plastic bottle takes up to 450 years to degraded source. In a day, we found 497 of them.
Plastic bags floating around are often mistaken by turtles for their favorite food: jellyfish. Confused, they swallow it but can´t digest it, and end up starving and dying because of it. Shockingly, we found 6,230 plastic bags in just one day during our costal clean up efforts. Just a week ago MCP took care of a young female green turtle, which was starving because of this very problem. Seaturtles are far from only species eating plastic though. Each year 100,000 marine creatures and estimated 1 million sea birds die from ingesting plastic source. It it is now impossible for them to avoid ingesting at least a little bit of plastic every time they eat. Even plankton, at the bottom of the food chain, have been found to ingest tiny plastic micro plastic particles. This means, plastic is getting into the food chain and the sushi you eat on Saturday night or your oysters on date night contain plastic.
One billion people rely on the oceans as their primary protein source. Many have the seas as their livelihood and loads more supplement their diet with seafood. source. Many more enjoy it as part of their lifestyle (food, holidays, etc.) making the problem of ocean plastic OUR problem. It’s affecting our food, our work, our health, our lives. That´s what International Coastal Clean-up Day is about.
Every year participants from more than 150 countries come together to participate in the clean up events. Since international costal clean up started, 12 million volunteers have helped clean up over 100 million kilograms of trash along 580,000 km coast line around the world source. Participation is easy. All you need to do is as collect trash on a stretch of coastline, sorting out what kind of trash was collected, and register it online. Sorting and registering the trash is a crucial step to determine where the debris are coming from and possible ways to reduce it.
There is no need to wait another year to be part of the movement. Being more aware of our consumption and reducing our plastic waste is important. Refusing single use plastics is something that we can easily do on a daily basis. Do you really need a straw with you smoothy or soda for example? We found 490 straws on this years clean up. Take collective action: Grab a bag, go to the beach (if there is no beach near you, find a creek or a street), and start cleaning it! Here at MCP, we clean our local beaches and dive sites twice weekly. On Saturday the 16th, we got 600kgs in one day and everyone who participated should be proud of their efforts for this good cause!
Find out more about what you can do to help: visit oceanconservancy.org.