Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ocean of garbage


September 20 was Coastal Clean-up Day. But, is one day enough to clean up our coastlines?

Over 80 per cent of plastic that is found in the seas has been washed out from land. a visit to the coast will give you an idea of the scale of the crisis.

Photo : Pankaj Sekhsaria.

Innocent victim : A Hawksbill Turtle entangled in a plastic net.

Here are some unbelievable facts of what garbage, mainly plastic waste, is doing to our oceans and the birds and animals that live in them.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme at least one million sea birds and about 100,000 marine mammals such as dolphins, whales and seals are killed by plastic every year.

Startling facts

A study conducted in the Netherlands found that 95 per cent of sea birds in the North Sea had plastic inside their stomachs; one bird in Belgium had 1600 pieces of plastic in its stomach. Nearly 600,000 tons of discarded plastic is believed to have settled at the bottom of the North sea.

There is so much plastic waste that is floating on our seas that researchers, scientists and regular ocean travellers refer to these as continents of plastic; a single plastic continent could weigh over three million tons.

One only needs to do a simple ‘garbage in oceans’ search on the Internet to actually find out the scale of the problem that we have created. Tens of thousands of pages of shocking information and pictures about the state of the oceans that cover 70 per cent of this planet. It is important also to bear in mind that this is a problem that is essentially created by humans. Over 80 per cent of the plastic that is found in the seas has been washed out from land – from our landfills, from our garbage cans – the plastic that we use and carelessly throw away day after day.

All of us may not have the opportunity to see what is happening in the far away oceans, a visit to any of our coast lines that is piled up with waste of all kinds gives us a good idea of the scale of this crisis.

Coastal Clean up day was on September 20, and was one effort at dealing with the problem when a large number of organisations and volunteers all over the world came together to clean up the coasts. The magnitude is such, that efforts like this can only make a small dent. A much better and long term solution, experts point out, is to adopt the 3R principle – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. That might be the only way out, because how much ever we clean up, the waste is not going away if we continue to generate it at the pace and quantities that we are presently doing.

1 comment:

Nina said...

it's quite terrible..i heard once that there was a plastic pile twice the size of texas state floating near hawaii...i couldn't believe it - but unfortunately its true.