One of the major threats to our beaches and marine ecosystems is the enormous amount of trash flow that enters the ocean. It is believed that thousands of tons of garbage winds up in our oceans, with the majority of that being plastic material. In addition to being very difficult (if not impossible) to biodegrade, plastics cause injury to our marine life such as birds, fish, seals, turtles, whales and other living sea creatures. Estimates show that there are 46,000 individual pieces of plastic litter for every square mile of ocean and, if we are not careful, within a decade there could be 1 pound of plastic for every 3 pounds of fish in the ocean.
How do we combat this? Well, there are five things you can do in your everyday life to help reduce the threat that trash flow poses to our ocean.
- Volunteer. Each fall and spring, most south Jersey beach towns host a beach cleanup event. Some are even tied to International Coastal Cleanup Day (September 16), however, there are different dates for local beach cleanups this fall (check the link above for dates). These important community events enlist volunteers to pick up trash from the beach so that it does not enter the ocean. If you are unable to participate in your town’s scheduled cleanup event you can always create your own beach cleanup event.
- Think about what you’re taking to the beach and know the risks. For example, during cleanup events globally, over half a million straws and stirrers have been found. Foregoing straws and stirrers in your beach drinks will keep them from entering the ocean and harming marinelife. If you can’t forego the straw or stirrer, make sure you place it in the cup once you are finished drinking, secure the lid and place the cup in a trash can (or securely in your beach bag until you can get to one).
- If you see it, pick it up. On your way to or from the beach, or during a beach walk, take a shopping or garbage bag with you and pick up what you find for disposal in a trash can. Don’t forget to download the Clean Swell ® app to record what you find.
- Share information about your efforts with your friends and on social media to encourage others to do the same.
- Consult the experts for additional tips and tricks about how to reduce trash on the beaches. The Clean Ocean Action is a local coalition dedicated to preserving and keeping clean New Jersey and New York marine systems, and the Ocean Conservancy works on a global level to protect all oceans and seas.
Together we can work to protect our ocean so that we can save marine- and wildlife and preserve our beaches for the enjoyment of future generations.