The World Is Not Our Garbage Can

Sam Dibel, Staff Reporter

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According to the Ocean Conservancy, “every year, 8 million metric tons of plastics enter our ocean on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that currently circulate our marine environments.”

This statistic shocked me, as it should everyone. Personally, I knew that plastic was an issue to the ocean environment, but it never truly hit me until a recent trip to the Florida Keys for spring break. Every day, many different types of garbage washed up onto the sea grass shore, ranging from plastic bags, to shampoo bottles, and more. There is a beautiful bird species known as the Ibis in the Florida Keys, and it was saddening to see it standing among the sea grass with tons of garbage surrounding it.

What’s even worse is what is happening underneath the water level, where it’s even harder to understand the amount of garbage in the ocean. Thousands if not millions of animals, and other ecosystems within the ocean are being harmed. Eight million metric tons of garbage is hard to imagine or fathom, but Ocean Conservancy’s Nicholas Mallos made a good comparison, when he said, “that’s like dumping one New York City garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute of every day for an entire year!” What plastic has done and is still doing to our ocean environment is truly horrifying, but this problem wouldn’t be hard to solve if people took simple steps to fix the issue.

Many people joke about the plastic straw argument, but it’s true. According to the Strawless Ocean Organization, “more than 500 million straws are used in the United States every day, and most of them end up in the ocean.” A simple fix to this is to not use straws at all, or buy a reusable straw out of materials such as metal or even glass. Instead of using plastic, one time use bags at the grocery store, buy reusable bags and use those instead. Although these, too, are often made of plastic, the difference is that they won’t be thrown out after one use. Two of the easiest ways to fix the problem are to recycle, and pick up trash when you see it. If recycling is available in your region, there is little to no reason why you shouldn’t do it. Picking up litter also makes a big difference, because one piece of garbage picked up is one less piece in the ocean, or one less piece polluting the environment in general, for that matter.

The world is not our garbage can, and it’s about time that humans learn that lesson, and act accordingly to fix it.