Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Let's Talk About Trash

Along with my passion for books, I am also a huge ocean lover. Anyone that knows me know I'm happiest near or in the water. (I also have a small obsession of dolphins.) And when I was younger I used to be a nut about recycling and pollution. I was the little kid who would break apart those plastic things that held the soda bottles together so some poor bird or turtle wouldn't die in it. Well, I've lost some of that younger enthusiasm, but realize conservation is more important now than ever.

I am on a list serve for the Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit advocacy group that promotes healthy and diverse ocean ecosystems. Today I received their annual report: A Rising Tide of Ocean Debris, and it was very eye opening. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, "Marine litter is one of the most pervasive and solvable pollution problems plaguing the world's ocean and waterways." 

Some interesting facts:
  • During the 2008 International Coastal Cleanup, nearly 400,000 volunteers picked up an astounding 6.8 million pounds of trash.
  • During the 2008 Cleanup, volunteers collected 11,0777 diapers in the Philippines, 19,504 fishing nets in the United Kingdom, and 1,362,741 cigarette butts in the US (gross!).
  • Of the 43 items tracked during the Cleanup, the tops 3 items of trash found in 2008 were cigarette butts, plastics bags, and food wrappers/containers. 
  • The majority of the entangles animals found during the Cleanup were bound up by old fishing line.
So what can we do to help stop it? It seems so easy, yet few of us (including myself) take these simple steps:
  • Expand public and private partnerships to monitor and reduce marine debris and fund research on the sources/impacts of debris
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle. Much of what winds up in the ocean wasn't truly necessary in the first place; recycle and use cloth grocery bags.
  • Seek better technological solutions.  The report gave an example of the ITW Hi-Cone company that developed a photodegradable six-pack holder (that thing I used to cut up as a little kid). The rings float in the water and within days sunlight reduces their strength and they eventually crumble, leaving animals unharmed.
Finally, the point of the report was to advertise for International Coastal Cleanup - get to your local beach and pick up some trash! Even if you live miles from the beach, a piece of trash can quickly and easily make its way to the ocean...so just pick it up!

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