By Simon HawkinTs
Ever wondered why you see so much trash on the beach; maybe this will help you understand. The practice of dumping garbage into the ocean has been around since the beginning of the industrial revolution. It was originally started it coastal areas like New York and San Francisco because at the time it was viewed as a more effective way of “permanently” getting rid of trash. This turned out to be completely false and now we are paying the price for a century of irresponsibility
The Practice of dumping
garbage into the ocean must
be stopped our every being on
earth will experience a
decrease in quality of life
There is enough garbage in the ocean to cover nearly half of the entire earth Time Magazine, “Where Garbage Grows
Did you know?
Millions of fish die every year because of garbage in the oceans.
Time Magazine, “Where Garbage Grows 3
Example of a
Over 75% of the
from barges like
this one is not
Shown below is an
example of this
type of garbage
Despite numerous calls from experts to end
the practice of dumping garbage in
oceans, it still continues today due to lack
of regulation, and because there is not a
strong enough driving force to make it stop
According to the scientific community, the reason this practice continues comes down to one issue. Money. It costs
companies approximately 33 percent less to dump garbage in the oceans that it does to take the same garbage to a landfill (Willyard). The main
reason being that cities and companies can avoid many of the fees they would otherwise have to pay to landfills. Another major
component is that in large cities near coastal areas, dumping trash into the ocean takes up much less space, especially for
crowded cities such as Los Angeles, New York, and Miami (Hso). Add to that
the fact that in many areas a barge docked on the ocean is closer that a 20 or 30 mile drive to the nearest landfill. While these reasons may sound ok in the short term, they create many serious
problems in the long term. The out of sight out of mind way of thinking cannot be applied to this issue. People make the serious mistake of thinking that because they can go to the beach and don’t see garbage floating in the water that everything is fine. The first key to fixing this problem is to break the myths surrounding it.
The United States
has the loosest laws
Dumping of any
While there are some laws in the United States
surrounding dumping garbage, they fail to target the real issues. At this point in time, most of the U.S laws do not ban or prohibit trash dumping; they just put limits on how much trash can be dumped at one time and impose small fines for violators (Hso). While this is better than nothing, it fails to solve the problem. The situation in newly developing countries such as such and India is even worse. They have almost no laws regarding the dumping of trash in the ocean and many of these countries do it extensively as a way to cut costs. While most of these countries will agree that there is an issue, they have made it clear that they are more
concerned with improving the state of there economy than with environmental protection. Various
environmental groups such as Sierra Club have called for Stricter National and International laws to be
passed in order to help with this problem, but the
which was a
needed support has not been there (Woodring). At this point, the best thing the government does is it provides tax credits to organizations and cities that use cleaner methods of disposal. This does provide some incentive, but not nearly enough to cause enough of a
change to be made (Hso).
An example of washed up garbage that has killed a whale and caused substantial damage to this beach.
As stated earlier, one of the most common misconceptions is that once trash is dumped, most of it “just disappears. In 2006, after a gulf storm, a great deal of ocean garbage washed ashore on this beach shown above (Dusto). Scientists collected some of the plastic bottles and other trash, and discovered that some of it is over 25 years old (Dusto). When you combine that with the fact that the world is now using more plastic then ever before, it becomes apparent that this problem isn’t just going away. Another component of this problem that is often overlooked is that even the small percentage of trash that does decompose leaves toxic residue in the ocean (Dusto). The problem of ocean garbage causes the following main problems:
-The collection of solid and particle waste in the water buries itself in places like coral reefs and sea forests. This has a devastating effect on many ecosystems because the sea animals are no longer able to inhabit areas that have an excess amount of this built up trash (Hso). This damage is very hard to reverse because one an area in the ocean becomes uninhabitable; it’s hard to bring life back to it (Hso).
-Particles of trash are often mistaken by sea animals as food and mistakenly eaten. This almost always results in death for the animal as the trash literally destroys the animal’s insides (Woodring). A typical example of this is when floating plastic bags in the water are mistaken for jellyfish by predatory animals, such as the leatherback turtle.
-For towns that depend on their beaches and coastal areas for tourism income, the problem of ocean garbage is serious (Hso). When currents come in, garbage from the ocean comes onto the shore and this creates a very expensive task of cleaning it up. In addition, this trash washing up onto the shore presents a danger for land animals in these areas as well.
How a clean, trash free ocean should look
In order for this problem to be fixed, several things need to be done. The first, and possibly most important thing is that people need to be educated. There needs to be awareness about the problems that trash in the ocean is causing. This is a critical step because of enough people don’t recognize the need for something to be done, then nothing will be done. In addition, the following measures need to be taken in order to stop this problem:
-The world governments need to either require cleaner methods of garbage disposal to be used, or need to significantly increase the incentives for cleaner methods. It is obvious that the current incentives aren’t weighing out (Willyard).
-More government money needs to be put into cleaning up the ocean so that the ecosystem isn’t damaged any further. Many will argue that we can’t afford to do this, but the truth is that we can’t no afford to clean up the garbage in the ocean.
-Once better laws are put into place to help prevent ocean dumping, they need to be followed to the letter so that we can protect our oceans, and so that future generations and us are able to live on our planet.
Hsu, Jeremy. "Ocean's Garbage Patch Still a Mystery - Technology & Science - Science - LiveScience - Msnbc.com." . 19 Aug. 2010. Web. 31 Mar. 2011.
Dusto, Amy. "Recycled Island to Be Built from Ocean Garbage Patch : Discovery News."
Discovery News: Earth. 31 Mar. 2011. Web. 31 Mar. 2011.
Woodring, Doug. "Plastic in the Ocean: The Pacific Trash Vortex - TIME." Time Magazine
Online Edition. Time Magazine, August 2009 Issue, 1 Aug. 2009. Web. 31 Mar. 2011.
Willyard, Cassandra. "Trash, Trash Everywhere." John Hopkins Magazine EDU B (2010): 47-51. Print.