My Experience With Sea Trash
A few of my best friends attend college on the island of Oahu, now you know what i’m thinking right? WOOHOO HAWAII TRIP. What a perfect opportunity to go spend some time on the beaches of Hawaii with my favorite people. Well, I did exactly that — and definitely didn’t think about anything else. On my first day there we took a five minute, yes only five minutes, walk down to Bikini Beach near their house.
“Don’t forget to put on your shoes.” My friend told me as we made our way down the steps onto the sand. At first I was confused as the sensation of your feet being encapsulated by the warm sand is notably one of the best feelings ever.
“Shoes? Why would I need sho— ” As my eyes met the shoreline I cut off my words and I realized why she would say that. There was sharp plastic and random bits of trash dispersed all along the beach. Discarded shoves and miscellaneous flip flops which were missing their other half, rocking back and forth with the water. It was disheartening to say the least.
After we found a spot to sit and watch the waves she mentioned to me how beach clean ups are a regular thing all around the island but in a few weeks time they look nearly the same as before. Throughout the time we sat there and talked, a family came with their children and also left, we noticed they had left a red play sand shovel on the beach. We both laughed as the absurdity of the coincidence upset us to the point past anger. As we left we grabbed as many large pieces of trash we could hold and threw it away back at her house.
When I pictured my first experience on the beaches of Oahu, I did not imagine trash to be part of that reality. However, this is what has become of beaches all around the world no matter if one is on the desolate beach or a beloved one has been littered with our trash and belongings. It is even harder to picture how soiled the ocean waters are above and below.
The Steps To A Solution
Humans love to innovate and make life easier for them. I mean who would want a harder life? Plastic became a product of our doing which did just that. Making a plastic bag costs around a penny whereas a paper bag is about four cents, yet corporations care about the three cent difference enough to continue saving their money while simultaneously throwing away their children’s future. Around three-hundred million plastic bags end up in the ocean every year. These are the types of items which several fish and even sea turtles confuse for jellyfish, which they each, we then eat. It starts with us, it is time that humans allow discomfort into our everyday lives and wallets, even if that means it will be a bit harder, to keep that same discomfort out of the environment.
One of the most important steps in fixing this plastic problem would be to get our recycling plants to become more efficient. America has had a plastic recycling rate of around 8.7 percent since 2017. If America discussed recycling tactics to countries like Germany with a sixty-six percent plastic recycling rate and Norway which recycles ninety-seven percent of all their plastic bottles, we would know a better means of going about our plastic waste management.
With the way our society has been enveloped into technology, most people have seen the numbers and seen the videos of how plastic is affecting the environment. When it comes down to it, all that information can be daunting and overwhelming when one is unsure how they can play a role in keeping out of the ocean — especially if they don’t live near one. One of the ways that can assist is to donate to ocean clean up groups. There are countless nonprofits and public benefit organizations which they can volunteer at or even just buy their products in which the money will go towards cleaning the oceans and beaches. Informing the public over social media and in public about the organizations they are able to provide for which aid the world on which we reside is another step to be taken.
Adding onto this staircase, laws need to be put in place specifically for the plastic pollution issue. Thankfully in 2020 the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act was passed, which addresses the plastic debris crisis threatening coastal ecosystems and communities, and harming marine life. This is major progress, but the momentum needs to keep pushing. There is currently another Act, The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2021, for which “ … the comprehensive federal legislation would begin to phase out throwaway plastics made from fossil fuel, hold the plastic industry responsible for its waste, and pause construction on any new plastic-making plants ” (Melges, 2021). If congress continues to pass acts such as the previously mentioned, humans will start to have a real footing on fighting this plastic predicament.
The Bottom Line
Humans caused the plastic pollution of our oceans and it is our duty to fix it. Change will start whether we want it or not, it will either be our ocean life dying off, leading to our end as well, or we change the way we have been treating our planet.
I would love to go to the beach one day and not see the sand riddled with an assortment of different plastic products. It is time we take action, it was time to take action years ago but we are fighting the clock today and will be until we make a dent in this matter. At the end of our lifetime we will have consumed over forty pounds of plastic, let’s work on not making that number rise. Let’s work together to fix our home.
Essay by: Elisa Olofsson
Arizona State University