Litter being improperly disposed of in our oceans has reached epidemic levels. There are few coastlines on the planet where you can’t find some kind of human pollution. This World Oceans Day, let’s talk about some of the more commonly found items on our coastlines and their eco-friendly alternatives.
Thanks to the Ocean Conservancy, we have solid numbers on just how many of these items get picked out of our world’s oceans each year.
Each year, more than 2 million cigarettes are found littering our coastlines. The “butts” of cigarettes are not bio-degradable. One cigarette alone can contaminate 7.5 liters of water with chemicals. We wish there was an eco-friendly alternative to cigarettes, but there really isn’t. The best thing you can do is stop smoking them, or at the very least, don’t smoke them at the beach and don’t throw them on the ground when you’ve finished smoking.
Plastic drink containers, caps, and lids
Each year, more than 1 million plastic bottles, 860,000 plastic bottle caps, and 350,000 plastic beverage lids are found littering our coastlines. These plastic items take an extraordinarily long time to break down and at any point can harm marine wildlife. The eco-friendly alternative to these single-use plastic items is simply using a reusable container for your beverages, whether or not you’re visiting the beach. If you do use a single-use plastic item, always make sure you pack out what you pack in and dispose of them in the correct recycle bin.
All together, 888,000 food wrappers are found littering our coastlines every year. It can be a lot of fun to visit a divey restaurant on the beach for a quick burger or a hot dog, but it’s better for the environment to bring your own lunch. But just like with plastic bottles, if you have to use a food wrapper, pack out what you pack in and make sure it’s disposed of correctly.
Plastic straws are often necessary for disabled individuals, but for the rest of us, using a reusable straw, like a bamboo or metal straw, can help prevent more than 400,000 plastic, single-use straws from winding up in our oceans and littering our coastlines. If you’re able, you can also simply say no to a straw and use your lips and hand-eye coordination to get the job done.
Plastic bags – where do we even begin with plastic bags? More than 400,000 platic grocery bags and 424,000 other types of plastic bags are collected on our coastlines every year. Plastic bags are remarkably dangerous for marine life. Many animals, like whales and sea turtles, mistake them for food and wind up dying because the plastic becomes lodged in their mouths and digestive tracts. Bringing a reusable bag with you to the store and especially to the beach is the silver-bullet to ending all that senseless plastic bag litter.
Glass beverage bottles & caps
Last up on our list is glass beverage bottles as well as their metal caps. Around 400,000 glass bottles and 380,000 metal bottle caps are collected from our coastlines every year. While the glass bottles are easily recycled, the metal caps are more difficult to recycle. There may be a bottling plant near you that will take them back, but to our knowledge, no municipal recycling program will take them back. Just like with plastic drinking containers, your best bet is to say no to the glass and instead use reusable beverage containers.