The International Coastal Cleanup began more than 30 years ago, when communities rallied together with the common goal of collecting and documenting the trash littering their coastline.
Marine debris, also called marine trash, is any human-made solid material that is disposed of or abandoned on beaches, in waterways that lead to the ocean, or in the ocean itself, regardless of whether disposal occurred directly, indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally. Dead seaweed, shells, carcasses or other naturally-produced materials are not included.
According to National Geographic trash that flows into the oceans every year is expected to nearly triple by 2040 to 29 million metrics.
Shocking as these incidents are, most pollution happens little by little, a slow increase in water toxicity levels, people habitually leaving food wrappers on the beach, a new sewage outlet near a vital wildlife breeding ground, and so on. Individually, none of these events would make the evening news, but when they happen a thousand times every day, it is not long before they add up to a major environmental problem. Ocean trash is counted in three ways: through beach surveys, computer models based on samples collected at sea, and estimates of the amount of trash entering the oceans.
The most common types of garbage found on the beaches include cigarette butts, food wrappers, straws, bottle caps, and beverage bottles. More creatures live in the oceans than on land, with over 12 000 marine species in South African waters alone.
Over 1 million marine animals perish each year due to debris in our oceans. Habitats are destroyed and entire species wiped out. The impact is felt not only by the aquatic ecosystems but also the human population that depends on the sea and rivers for both sustenance and commerce.
What can be done:
- Choose reusable products
- Never litter
- Clean up the beach
- Support non-profit organisations aiming at protecting the ocean
"If we don't wake up and do something, we’re going to see fishless oceans by the year 2048." – Lisa Agabian (Conservation Society).