8 million. That’s the amount of plastic that ends up in our oceans every day. Not just plastic but other pollutants like oil spills, releasing toxins from manufacturing plants, littering, and ocean mining contribute to ocean pollution.
The rate at which we are polluting sea water is frighteningly fast. This world oceans day, we are taking our very first step towards saving our oceans, that is, by educating ourselves (and you, of course) on the causes and ways to save our oceans.
How do oceans get polluted?
There are many reasons for ocean pollution. But, of all the causes, there is one constant and main cause, i.e., us humans. Imagine the worst possible scenario of how you wouldn’t want your daily use products to be treated. Now imagine that your used laundry detergent is being poured into a shallow ditch near a local stream with the use of a hose pump.
This water is eventually going to flow into rivers and oceans. Sounds extreme, but unfortunately, it’s true for households all around the world, especially in developing countries.
First, however, let’s understand how oceans are polluted.
It is the major source of ocean pollution. This type of pollution comes from many different locations and sources. This pollution is caused by the result of runoffs that occurs due to rain or the moving of snow. When one of these happens, they move the pollutants from the ground into the ocean. Like after a heavy rainstorm, water flows off the road, taking the trash or pollutants and merging into the oceans.
The least we can do here to keep these pollutants going into the ocean is clean our streets.
2. Oil spills
Ships are another major contributor to ocean pollution. When oil spills occur, they last for years in the oceans. Especially when crude oil spills. And it is so difficult to clean it up.
3. Intentional discharge
Some manufacturing plants release toxic waste, including mercury, into the ocean. All these get intentionally released into the sea. And the sewages, too, contribute to ocean pollution.
4. Ocean mining
Deep-sea ocean mining pollutes and disrupts the ecosystem at the deepest levels of the ocean. Drilling for minerals like cobalt, zinc, silver, gold, and copper results in toxic sulfide deposits deep beneath the ocean’s surface hence disrupting marine life.
Everyday items that pollute our oceans
These were some major causes of ocean pollution. But along with these major causes, some products pollute our ocean. Products that are commonly used every day. So let’s see what those are and what we can use instead.
1. Foam take-away containers
Do you like to have your coffee on the go? In the foam take-out containers with plastic lids on them? Such containers, aka expanded polystyrene foam (EPS), are not environmentally friendly enough to be recycled and broken down. They are very easy to wind up in the waterways because of their lightweight and floaty materials. Foam containers are often mistaken by sea animals as food. So make sure you avoid using them or carrying them to the beach. Instead, you can use reusable coffee mugs. These are travel-friendly, ocean-friendly, and pocket friendly too.
2. Straws and stirrers
Because of their smaller size, single-use straws and stirrers have the potential to harm animals more than other plastics; they are simpler to break down into microplastics and are sometimes too small to recycle. One of the simplest ways to help maintain the ocean free of single-use plastics is to say “no” to a straw. Instead, go for stainless steel or reusable bamboo straw.
3. Cigarette butts
Cigarette butts are one of the most common types of ocean litter. According to “The Ocean Conservancy’s 2018 International Coastal Cleanup Report, almost 2,412,151 cigarette butts were collected worldwide in 2017. This is an increase from the 1,863,838 butts collected around the world in 2016.” These cigarettes and the toxins inside them end up in our oceans and marine animals. If you smoke cigarettes (which is not advisable), make sure you place them in a proper receptacle.
4. Metal cans
In fact, metal beverage cans can also do harm if they are left to be lined on the ocean floor. So next time you visit the beach, make sure you throw your cans in the trash bins.
5. Plastic bottles, bags, caps, containers, grocery bags, etc.
Plastic is the main enemy here. Millions end up in our waterways and choking up marine life every day. But we can fix this epidemic with minor changes like swapping plastic bags with reusable ones, plastic containers with stainless steel tiffins, or plastic zipper bags with reusable food wraps.
The plastic caps on the tops of your favorite beverages are causing more harm than you may realize. These brightly colored plastic caps are small enough to be mistaken for food by marine creatures and seabirds more frequently, than larger plastic items. Worse, most recycling centers refuse to accept caps and require you to remove them first. You can help by ensuring your trash is properly disposed of and by using reusable bottles whenever possible.
And for plastic bottles, one of the best ways to reduce this type of pollution is not to use them, recycle them properly, and not throw them away on the beaches.
The idea of taking steps from your daily life to make the ocean cleaner is indeed humbling and makes you feel good. Oceans are the most beautiful and peaceful places in this world. We can protect them from pollution by making small and conscious changes. If we want to help our oceans and marine life survive, we must be aware of the products we use, see if they are safe for seas and oceans, and try to find alternatives. It should be quite easy to make the switch to an ocean-friendly lifestyle. You have to think about your actions and the products you are using.