It can be incredibly easy to get lulled into the idea that when you throw a piece of garbage in the trash, it is “taken care of.” You feel you’ve done your civic duty and properly disposed of whatever it is you no longer have use for, and you might even feel pretty good about yourself for actively combatting litter. The only thing missing from this thought-process is what happens to that trash once it is out of your hand. While yes, it is contained in a trash receptacle, unfortunately, that is rarely where it stays.
It is estimated that 90 percent of debris that ends up in the oceans comes from land-based sources, and about 80 percent of that is plastic waste. With a total of 8.8 million tons of plastic being dumped into the ocean every year, we’re starting to come face to face with a massive ocean trash problem, one that was recently highlighted in the appearance of Hong Kong’s “plastic tide.”
Cheung Sha Beach on Lantau Island and Stanley Beach on Hong Kong Island have been subject to what some are calling a “garbage tsunami,” with tens of thousands of tons of plastic waste washed ashore. These beaches aren’t exactly known for being pristine, Coastal Watch estimates that more than 15,000 metric tons of marine debris were picked up from the coastal areas surrounding these beaches last year – but this year’s plastic haul is much, much worse. The Environmental Protection Department believes around six to ten times the normal volume of trash has washed up on these beaches but the primary source of all this waste is yet unknown, but mainland China has been posited as the root of it.
It might seem like this massive wave of trash is an extreme case, but we need to come to terms with the reality that if we don’t take action to reduce the amount of plastic entering the oceans every year, this will become the norm. It takes over 1,000 years for plastic to break down and there is already 270,000 tons of it floating on the ocean’s surface alone.
While efforts are being made to remove debris from the oceans, improve recycling systems, and innovate barriers to prevent plastic from getting into waterways, we can all take action in our daily lives to stop plastic waste at the source.
If we all make an effort to identify where we use plastic and actively look for alternatives, we can drastically cut down on the amount of plastic pollution that finds its way into the oceans.
As the leading organization at the forefront of the conscious consumerism movement, One Green Planet believes that reducing everyday plastics from our lives is not about giving up anything or sacrificing convenience, but rather learning to reap the maximum benefit from the items you use every day while having the minimum impact.
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All image source: Ocean Recovery Alliance/Facebook