Ocean Pollution

It’s summer time and we all enjoy spending time at the beach with family and friends, so I thought it only appropriate to talk a little about ocean pollution.

The ocean is one of the more unexplored parts of our planet, with less than 5 percent of the planet’s oceans having been explored. Of those explored oceans, 240,470 marine species exist, with new marine life being discovered daily. The oceans are our main source of oxygen, with nearly 70 percent coming from marine plants, mainly marine algae. Without the oceans, survival in this world would not be possible.

Ocean pollution has a negative effect on all of us. Working together, we can decrease this pollution. Eighty percent of ocean pollution comes from land-based sources. People might litter or the wind blows trash out of dumpsters or garbage bins and the litter makes its way to storm drains. The litter is transported via rain or stormwater to rivers and eventually to the ocean.

The most hazardous debris in our oceans are plastics, which make up 60-90 percent of all marine pollution. There are an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic waste in our oceans. Seventy percent of this plastic sinks into the ocean’s ecosystem, 15 percent floats and 15 percent lands on our beaches.

As plastic decomposes, which takes 500 to 1,000 years, it breaks into micropieces and then to microfibers. These microfibers are extremely hazardous to fish, mammals and sea life. Many animals digesting these microfibers are in our food chain, so we are digesting these microfibers also.

Approximately 100,000 marine mammals die each year from plastic in our oceans by either ingesting it or being entangled in it, and one million sea birds die annually from ingesting plastic. It is estimated that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. At the rate we are going now, approximately one truckload of plastic enters the oceans each minute. The most common items found in coastal clean-ups is plastic beverage bottles, plastic bottle caps, plastic bags, plastic straws and food wrappers.

There are steps that we can all take to help with ocean pollution:

  • Any time you see litter, regardless of what it is, pick it up and properly dispose of it.
  • Remember: Reduce, reuse, recycle. Reduce your usage of single-use plastics. Reuse plastic packaging as many times as you can. Recycle rather than throw away.
  • Avoid products with excessive packaging.
  • Bring a reusable bag for shopping at grocery stores, retail shops, etc.
  • If you buy or use a product that contains a plastic “six-pack” holder, be sure to cut it before disposing of it. In the ocean, these rings expand, often times tangling or choking wildlife.
  • Educate those around you and don’t be afraid to talk trash to your friends and family. People can’t change what they don’t know about, so help spread the word.

If you would like to learn more about Keep America Beautiful of Nash and Edgecombe Counties, contact me at 252-467-4960 or via e-mail at stephanie.collins@rockymountnc.gov.

We are always looking for volunteers to help keep our communities clean and green.

Stephanie Collins is coordinator of Keep America Beautiful of Nash and Edgecombe Counties.