As I walked along the beach this morning, I was saddened to see how much human trash was buried in the sand. Normally I’d pick up 2 or 3 items in my half hour walk along the beach – maybe a cigarette butt here or there, or a plastic wrapper from some chewing gum. But this morning the tide was coming in, and had washed a lot of debris onto the beach.
There were all the wonderful natural things I’d expect to find on the beach - the occasional bits of seaweed, the handful of “blue bottles” (similar to a jellyfish), shells and cuttlefish bones, and the many pieces of cunjevoi (a type of sea squirt) which had been dislodged from the nearby rocks by the swell.
But I also collected an empty cigarette packet, 3 paddle pop sticks, 7 cigarette butts, 2 metal bottle lids (the kind that you find on beer bottles), two plastic bottle lids, a tissue, a cloth, a piece of crumpled paper, and a used bandaid.
I know, gross, right? Yet that’s what we are putting into our oceans.
According to www.worldanimalprotection.org.au, a 2016 UN report shows that the number of animal species affected by marine debris (including microplastics) is on the increase. More than 800 animal species are affected by litter in our seas. This represents a 23% increase in just 4 years from a 2012 report.
The Tasman Sea, which runs between Australia and New Zealand, is a global hotspot for seabird impacts by marine debris. Given the steady increase of plastic production in our world today, CSIRO is predicting that plastic ingestion in seabirds may reach 95% of all species by 2050.
And of course it’s not only seabirds which are at risk. Many other marine mammals are also impacted, including whales, dolphins, dugongs, rutles and fish. CSIRO estimates that in the Gulf of Carpentaria, between 5,000 and 15,000 turtles have been killed after becoming ensnared by derelict fishing nets – most of which originate from overseas fishing operations.
Whilst this is a global issue, it’s something that each and every one of us can be proactive in helping to resolve. Here are some simple steps you can take to have a positive impact:
- On your bush walks and beach walks, carry a small bag with you. If you come across any rubbish (trash), take it with you and dispose of it in a proper bin. You didn’t put it there, but you can be an important part of the solution.
- Evaluate your own use of non-recyclable plastics. How can you reduce this even further? Read the labels on your bin liner bags, and switch to 100% compostable bags. Good health food stores will be able to source this for you, made from corn or other natural substances. Beware of purchasing supermarket brands of plant-based degradable bags, which are made with only 60% or less of plant based material. The label often doesn’t declare what the rest of the bag is made from.
- Give feedback to suppliers who are using non-recyclable plastics in their packaging. Is there an alternative solution they could use? Eg. could they use eco-friendly wrapping instead of bubble-wrap? The more we as consumers speak up, the more companies are motivated to change their policies around plastics.
- Donate to organisations that research, rescue and care for our native wildlife and sea-life, or become a volunteer for these organisations. That way you know your money and time is going to help this global issue. This includes organisations such as Oceana, Ocean Conservancy, Sea Shepherd, Coral Reef Alliance, Coral Restoration Foundation, Project Aware, The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, WIRES Australian Wildlife Rescue Organisation, The Orangutan Project, and many more!
- I am powerful beyond measure
- Every choice I make is part of the solution for our Planet
- When I am in alignment with my truth, I can achieve Miracles
- I am the Guardian of our Earth, and care for her every day
- I am ONE with the wind and the waves
- I am ONE with the song of the birds and the breath of the wind