In 2018, over 40% of trash thrown into landfills was in the form of biodegradable cardboard boxes or paper. This is substantial because the items were not only broken down within a years time but the carbon and nitrogen within the boxes is great for soil as well as helping plants grow and absorb the nutrients they need.
Currently, in 2022, roughly 87% of all trash thrown into landfills is not broken down. This is a problem because it creates waste as well as threatens wildlife, specifically in the ocean. 34% of all leatherback sea turtles, when autopsied, died by some sort of choking due to plastic bags being littered into the world’s oceans. Plastic bags also take years to decompose and release toxins into the ground when decomposing. Reducing the waste being filtered into the oceans of the world isn’t going to be an easy thing to do but in my own professional opinion I do believe that in order to start reducing the number of trash in the ocean we must first start with reducing the amount of plastic waste that is being produced. 100 Billions of plastic bags are thrown into landfills and millions will one day reach the ocean but we as people can change these numbers by disbanding all plastic bags and materials that will not break down.
The biggest way to reduce the amount of plastic bags being made is making more cardboard boxes for businesses to use and limiting plastic bag production. Creating cardboard boxes requires less energy and labor than its predecessor, plastic bags. We can allow people to get their fast food in foldable cardboard boxes and take home their groceries in boxes (just like at Sam’s Club or Costco). If we cannot limit the amount of plastic being produced we as people can get more educated on what, how, and why we recycle. Currently only 9% of the plastic in the world is recycled which is a problem because if only 50% of plastic in the world was recycled then that theoretically would reduce the 100 billion plastic bags being thrown into the ocean to 50 billion.
While it may take a while to achieve this goal another way that you as an individual can contribute to keeping the oceans clean is participating in ocean clean ups. At most beaches there is a day or days out of the month in which the community is invited to help pick up loose trash and bags from the beaches and if every person did this it would greatly diminish the amount of waste in the world’s oceans. Another way you as a person can help contribute to the amount of waste being thrown into the ocean is by limiting your uses of single-use plastics like plastic cups. Lastly, you as a person can contribute to the pollution of oceans by siding with legislation. If there are rules in place and the law says you cannot do things like use single-use plastics or plastic sacks when going grocery shopping then these numbers will be significantly reduced. Figuring out what organizations can contribute to reducing waste and pollution is a significant step in helping reduce global pollution in the ocean.
One last note to help you change your mind about world ocean pollution is the species affected. All seven sea turtle species are affected, and 81 out of 123 marine species have become entangled in or eaten plastic bags of some sort. Annually 100,000 fish die from plastic pollution in the ocean. Some of these species are on the brink of extinction and it would be a shame to see them gone because of human waste. Even at the deepest point in the ocean there are plastic bags floating on the ocean floor.
Essay by: Dylan Erwin
Texas State University