Here’s One Actionable Thing You Can Do to Help Clean Up Our Oceans

Ocean pollution
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I remember the first time I went to Bali, and was shocked by the sheer amount of plastic and other junk that had swept up from the sea and were scattered across the beach. It was eye-opening — and showed me how big of a problem ocean pollution really is today.

The stats don’t lie: since plastic became mass produced in the 1950s, over 8.3 billion tonnes of it have been made — of which, only 9% has been recycled. The other 91% sits in landfill, has been burned (emitting harmful CO2 into the atmosphere) or — where I witnessed it — floats in our ocean.

Some of the worst, but most common, items to pollute our seas include plastic bottles, plastic bags, plastic straws, plastic packaging, cigarette butts and coffee cups.

“Many animals mistakenly ingest plastic believing it to be a food source,” writes Australian non-profit Take 3 For The Sea on its info page, titled The Problem With Plastic. “This can cause injury, suffocation, starvation and often death. Plastic contaminates our air, land, sea and can enter the human body through the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe.”

So, with all its negatives, why do we even use and make plastic? Well, because it doesn’t cost much to make and it’s durable. So durable, though, that it doesn’t ever break down — instead, breaking into smaller and smaller pieces, called microplastics and nanoplastics, which we often inadvertently end up ingesting. It’s not ideal, really.

What to do? No doubt you’re now understanding the magnitude of the issue and are wondering what you can do to stop the influx of plastic into our oceans. The best place to start is by limiting your use of single-use plastic and telling others around you to do so, too. “Every single-use bottle you refuse is a positive move for the planet,” writes Take 3 For The Sea.

If you’re thinking that you refusing one single plastic bottle might not make a difference, think about what would happen if one billion people did it. Wouldn’t that make a pretty big difference?

Though it’s best to start at the root of the problem by stopping plastic from going into the oceans in the first place, let’s face it: there’s a lot of plastic already in the sea. So, with that in mind, the next best thing you can do is to ‘take 3 for the sea’. In other words, next time you’re at the beach, pick up three pieces of rubbish you see around you in the ocean or sand and throw them into the bin.

My friend Tammy meets another friend in Bondi every Friday morning to stroll along the sand and pick up any rubbish they can see. Like refusing the plastic bottle, it’s such a simple act that, if everyone did, would make a significant impact on our seas. And isn’t that the end goal, really?

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