I have spent my entire life living within a few minutes of the ocean, it has been as big a port of me as the people in my life. It helps define me. It helps me understand. It helps me be me. Without being as close to the ocean as I have always been, I don't know that I would be the same person I am today. With that being said, every ocean in the world is in trouble. Really serious trouble. They are being polluted every single day, very single hour, and probably every single minute of every day with plastic. We have let copious amounts of plastic enter our oceans, from the microfibers I talked about last week to the really big ugly pieces that are obvious. Sea creatures, birds, and their ecosystems are suffering because of our lax waste standards. Things have to change if we want to move toward a clean sustainable future. If we want the world to be healthy and self regulating with humans fitting back into natural systems and not disrupting them then we need to figure this out. We need to make things happen to right our wrongs.
And things are happening.
One of the biggest problems with plastic getting into the oceans are the garbage patches that form around ocean gyres. Ocean gyres are where currents meet, spin around, and overall have a great time together, think of them like giant ocean water parties with garbage crashing in and ruining the fun time. There are several party crashers in our oceans: The North and South Pacific, North and South Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean. The most famous garbage patches are in the Pacific Ocean and that is where most of the effort is being placed to eradicate them. The Pacific patches tend to be much bigger and more of a problem because of the countries that surround it. They tend to have more lax garbage disposal methods and much bigger nations then those in the Atlantic regions. But do not mis-read me, there are garbage problems in every ocean and every ocean deserves to be cleaned and stay clean!
One proposed method to get rid of the garbage, first in the North Pacific, is to use several large surface garbage collection machines powered by ocean currents from The Ocean Cleanup project. This group will deploy semi-large scale skimmers to collect the garbage then rely on ships to take the garbage back to shore, recycle what they can and make new up-cycled products, and then sell these products either as final consumables or raw materials. This project has been met with several scepticism from the scientific community, primarily due to the reactionary method of the project and not create systems to prevent this from happening. This is a double edged sword, do we just let the garbage sit out in our oceans or do we focus our efforts preventing this from happening?
Boyan Slat is the early 20's powerhouse behind The Ocean Cleanup project and understands what his critics are saying but he makes a good point. Yes, we need to stop garbage from getting into our oceans but we also need to get out there and take the garbage out of them. He understands the harm of just leaving the garbage out there and he wants to stop that harm from getting worse. This is not a simple problem that can be solved with just one solution, there needs to be constant work thrown at solving it and if Slat can contribute then let him. As consumers we have a role to play in all this as well. We need to change our habits to contribute less as well as actively support those trying to solve the problem. Here are some things we can do to help:
Stop Using Plastic: the best way to prevent the situation is to just not contribute. Stop using plastic as much as you can.
Bring Reusable When You Can: bring reusable clothe bags, cutlery when eating takeout, and metal or glass straws. These are three major contributors to our garbage problem overall.
Cut Down On Takeout: unless you call ahead and let the restaurant know that you have your own packaging materials, then they will most likely put your food in throwaway containers. Eat in, make a night or a moment of it!
Don't Buy Bottled Drinks: bottled water to me is the most wasteful, unless your local drinking water is tainted, there is no reason to by bottled water. Tap water is pretty well free and almost always safe.
Opt For Glass or Aluminium: when those cravings do kick in and you find yourself in need of soda or another packaged beverage try and find glass or aluminium packaging. These forms of containers can be recycled much easier, and in the case of aluminium its easier for manufacturers to recycle your container then it is to make a new one!
Recycle: if you have to use plastic, separate it from the rest of the garbage and get it to facilities that can take care of it responsibly.
There is no one answer to correct this problem, other then to not use plastic ever, but our society is so wrapped around it that it is hard. Do your best in your life to reduce your dependancies on it and when you are forced to use it, dispose of it responsibly! As consumers we can change industry to more sustainable ways through our buying habits. Make those habits better for the planet and demand less plastics!
Thank you for reading and have a great week.