Turning the Tide Against Marine Pollution

The health of our seas hangs in the balance not just because of overfishing, unsustainable fishing practices, and the intensifying impacts of climate change. Marine pollution also poses substantial harm to our seas.

About 80% of marine pollution comes from human activities on land. Garbage smothers coral reefs, and are sometimes mistaken for food by marine life. High concentrations of plastic bottles may block the breathing passages and stomachs of many large marine species like sharks and whales. Globally, the Philippines ranks third among nations with the most ocean plastic pollution.

A total of 1057.5 kilograms of biodegradable and nonbiodegradable marine debris were collected from the three clean-up activities. The bulk of the trash collected were plastics and food wrappers.

The International Coastal Clean-up Day is an annual movement started by US-based Ocean Conservancy in 1986. In ICC 2014, more than 560,000 volunteers around the world gathered 16 million pounds of trash. Top items collected were cigarette butts, plastic food wrappers, plastic beverage bottles, plastic bottle caps, and plastic bags. However, this figure is only a fraction of the staggering amount of uncollected garbage.

Living Blue Planet Report 2015, a recently released ground-breaking WWF study on marine health, stated that an estimated eight million tonnes of plastic waste – roughly 17.6 billion pounds – are dumped into our seas every year.

“With at least 60 per cent of the world’s population living within 100 kilometers of the coast and the global population growing, marine pollution from land-based activities is likely to worsen. Given the transboundary nature of marine pollution, protection of our ocean from land-based activities requires urgent international cooperation,” said the study.

Filipinos can adopt simple and practical ways for trash-free seas, such as minimizing the use of disposable plastic products. Every year, half a billion to a trillion pieces of plastic bags are consumed worldwide. Sometimes, these bags end up not in our landfills but in our waterways and eventually, in our seas.

1. Watch what you throw.
Over 80% of marine pollution comes from land-based activities. Most waste thrown inland eventually make their way out to sea.

2. Minimize use of plastic bags.
Plastic bags do not biodegrade. Instead, they photo-degrade and break down into smaller and more toxic particles to contaminate both water and soil. The danger is real and alarming: in a planet where everything is connected, these chemicals enter the food system to eventually poison humans. Curbing our over-reliance on plastic bags minimizes this threat.

3. Bring your own water tumbler instead of relying on bottled water for hydration.
High concentrations of plastic bottles may block the breathing passages and stomachs of many large marine species like sharks and whales.

4. Dispose of cigarette butts properly.
Did you know that cigarette butts are the top items collected at International Coastal Cleanup drives globally? They are followed by food wrappers and plastic water bottles. Last year, more than two million cigarette butts, 1.6 million food wrappers, plus about a million plastic water bottles were gathered. These numbers do not yet account for the millions of tonnes of uncollected garbage.

5. Reuse disposable food containers.
Taking out leftover food from the restaurant? It is likely that you will bring home your food with a disposable plastic container, which you can use to store other food and household items.

6. Pay attention to what you dispose of.
Interesting items collected at coastal cleanup drives include enough items to furnish an apartment: kitchen sinks, refrigerators, air conditioning units, rugs, tables and chairs, curtains, desks, mattresses, pillows and pillow cases, toilet bowls, among many others.

7. Be creative!
Take part in upcycling activities that reinvent or redecorate once-useless products into new, useful materials.

8. Support products that have less packaging.
Buy in bulk. Buying lots of smaller packs generates more waste. Bulk purchasing saves money, too. Opt for brands that have less packaging.

9. Influence change in your community.
Learn about the waste management policies of your local public officials before voting them. You can also write your Mayor or local representative to ask for tougher action against garbage, which end up polluting our seas or accumulating in landfills.

10. Take action!
Even if you’re not joining a clean-up activity, make sure to pick up marine debris whenever you chance upon trash at the beach.

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