How does trash get in the ocean?
You’ve probably heard of the garbage patches floating in the ocean. In fact, there are about 4.7 to 12.8 million metric tonnes of plastic floating in our oceans right now. To put that into perspective, that’s the equivalent of dumping an entire garbage truck worth of plastic into the ocean each minute. That leaves most of us wondering, how does trash get in the ocean?
You might think that it’s from all of the fishing boats, cruise ships, and yachts, but you’d be wrong. Land-based activities are to blame for 80% of the plastic in the ocean. Let’s dig into how exactly that happens.
So, how does trash get in the ocean?
- Disposal & Landfills – When you throw plastic into the trash instead of the recycling, it starts its journey to the landfill. Plastic can be easily blown away as it’s very lightweight. It might blow out of trash cans, dumpsters, or dump trucks. Slowly but surely, it arrives in drains, rivers, and ultimately the ocean.
- Down the drain – Many products are now advertised as “flushable” – and even if they’re not, people flush them anyway. People often flush sanitary wipes, period products, and cotton ear buds down the toilet. Microbeads in personal hygiene products go down the shower drain. When you wash synthetic clothing, it releases microfibres into the water. All of those drains eventually lead to an ocean.
- Litter – Trash littered on the street won’t just stay there and rot away. Wind and rain carry this waste, often containing plastic, into drains, streams, and rivers. We all know where that leads.
Rivers enable trash to get in the ocean
Rivers play a key role in delivering trash to the oceans. An estimated 1,000 rivers account for 80% of plastic waste in the oceans. That’s anywhere from 0.8 to 2.7 million metric tonnes each year. Small urban rivers have been found to be the biggest offenders.
What you can do to fight plastic trash in our oceans
The best, most immediate thing we can all do is avoid single use plastic. This will take lots of small adjustments to your daily habits, so be patient with yourself and focus on taking small steps. Join the Aim Plastic Free challenge for free tips and tricks on how to transition.
Bring a reusable coffee cup when you go to your local cafe. Keep a travel set of utensils in your bag so you can say no to plastic cutlery when dining out. Bring your own containers to avoid takeaway containers. When you’re shopping for groceries, bring your own reusable bags.
When you’re ready to take it further, rethink the products you buy. Aim to purchase things in glass, tin, or paper instead of plastic. Better yet, buy food at a bulk store where you can bring your own containers and avoid packaging altogether. Make DIY cleaners and cosmetics to avoid purchasing traditional products contained in plastic.
When you do have plastic, be sure to recycle it. Don’t litter, and don’t throw it in a trash bin. Be mindful of recycling things properly – for more on that, check out my post here.
The images of plastic pollution are dismal – but they’re important to see. They can help shock us into action and make us rethink our purchases. What can you do to limit plastic use? Leave a comment below and let me know!
For a list of products, I recommend to aid in the transition to a plastic free lifestyle, check out my Amazon shop.
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