Growing up in Naples, Florida, I have been to the beach thousands of times in my life. Every time I go, I always head there excited but return scorched. The beach is a beautiful place to be and allows you to create some wonderful memories. There are tons of beaches to attend in the Southwest Florida community and all of them tell a different story. Unfortunately, those stories are being covered up garbage left by tourism, and unsettling locals. We believe that most people believe that this behavior is quite abhorrent.
Beach pollution is riddling our shores and has created an epidemic on almost every beach in the world. Plastic, leftover food, the ends of cigarettes, and many other objects that beachgoers leave behind have destroyed our beautiful beaches. Furthermore, beach pollution has increasingly become more toxic for people attempting to relax and enjoy the beach, but more important the animals and creatures are losing their homes. Beach pollution is just more than trash, it is about realizing the effect of pesticides and oil. Everyone knows how much damage the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico caused in 2010. Thousands of sea creatures lost their lives and their homes after that spill. It has made left me disgusted, and upset that in over ten years we have forgotten about the damage humans have caused. Now, pesticides have been running off into our beaches and causing plant life and animals to find new means of life.
Our beaches need our help in order to survive. We must come up with ways to reduce our waste and avoid destroying our homes away from home for many people. According to the NRDC (2020), the United States experienced over twenty-thousand closed beach days since 2013. This was due to the fact that the beaches have become so filthy and riddled with plastic waste, and other toxicities that it created bacteria levels that were deemed not safe for human interactions. This heavily affects tourism in my hometown. Tourism is the backbone of Florida, especially in Southwest Florida. According to the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau, tourism employs ⅕ of every resident in Southwest Florida.
Finding A Solution
Sustainable packaging is a concept that needs to be implemented much more thoroughly. According to Parker (2018), over 40% of the world’s plastic is used for packaging with a life span of one day before it gets thrown away. In the coastal regions of the world, over 10 billion pounds of plastic are removed from our oceans. The damage that plastic causes are reprehensible, but there is a way for us to move forward and more our environment much healthier.
Publix, a Florida-based grocery store is slowly removing its plastics and moving them into recyclable bags. They have made reusable bags made from waste that consumers can use shopping at their stores. Personally, I have been using them for years because I got tired of having all these plastic bags around my house. Since high school, I carry around a reusable bag in my car to avoid plastics in other stores. Grocery chains and other department stores should begin to create reward programs for avoiding plastic bags and using reusable bags for their shopping.
According to Whitley (2018), the U.S. consists of 1% of total plastic in the ocean, but according to the article China consists of over 30%. It is hard convincing China to become more environmentally friendly, but as humans, we must do our best to keep our oceans clean, and our planet healthy. Social media has been able to highlight the damage plastic and toxic waste have done to our environment. People are able to see what is really happening in nature. The videos and images of sea animals consuming plastic and unfortunate dying cause outrage in many humans. These videos strike anger but usually, no action is taken. I believe we need these companies and organizations, especially in areas where people may not be located near an ocean to help spread the information about combating plastic waste. With nearly everyone owning a cellphone or an electrical device there is no reason why can’t use it to our advantage and help combat this issue. This is a small step to help outreach to many individuals which can help set up future organizations to combat these issues in their communities.
Packaging is constantly evolving and is looking for environmentally friendly ways to incorporate less plastic in this process. According to Thornton (2020), companies are implementing new strategies for combatting this issue. Some companies are using biodegradable products to help limit the environmental damage people leave behind. Many companies are recycling their products and limiting their waste and just fully reusing the same products for another job. This is probably the most effective way companies can encounter dealing with an excess of plastic. Within this article, there is a graph that shows how successful countries are with recycling and reusing their plastic. Examples of countries that succeed in recycling are Norway, Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland. They are able to reuse over ⅔ of their plastic. Absolutely incredible work and their strategies need to be implemented in many of these coastal areas.
A lot of these adjustments sound scary to most people, but a little bit of change goes a long way. I always volunteer for my local beach cleanups. I have been a long-distance runner my entire life, and currently finishing my master’s degree and was a student-athlete for my entire college career. I used to love running barefoot on the beach but over the years it has been nearly impossible. During the summer when my hometown is filled with tourists and snowbirds, it is almost impossible to run on the beach. Nonetheless, the Florida heat is brutal enough to deal with. Since I have begun to notice all this garbage on my beaches I have been bringing one of those claw devices to help pick up trash and recycle whatever I can find. If you feel that there is nothing you can do because you don’t live near an ocean you can always research how to help combat plastic waste. There are thousands of ideas and methods to reduce your waste. All it takes is one step forward.
Essay by: Joshua Wagner