Talking trash: Reducing plastic in our oceans
Marine debris conference calls for global awareness of our plastic waste that ultimately ends up in the sea.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - 12:00
PLASTIC POLLUTION: Most plastic pieces in the ocean are small, complicating cleanup efforts. (Photo: ingridtaylar/Flickr)
Massachusetts and Hawaii may not seem to have much in common — with an April Fool's Day snowstorm on its way here, an island in the Pacific sounds perfect. But these two states share one crucial link: our tie to the ocean, and with it the growing concern over marine debris.
A few years ago, media outlets went wild over the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch," the giant vortex of marine debris floating just under the ocean's surface near Hawaii. Although its precise size fluctuates, the patch is literally and figuratively a gargantuan problem. Scientists discovered its counterpart in the Atlantic decades ago, specifically in the Sargasso Sea, though it has received much less attention.
NOAA and the UNEP sponsored the Fifth International Marine Debris Conference in Honolulu March 20-25. Workshops and lectures touched on many facets of ocean trash, including risk analysis, modeling, outreach and management. At the end of the conference, the UNEP proposed to develop the Honolulu Strategy, a framework on reducing the impacts of plastic pollution on the world's oceans.
The Honolulu Strategy calls on everyone from governments to NGOs to the public to make changes to the way we think about plastic waste. It's choking sea life, affecting human health, and marring landscapes that support the tourist industry. How can we make changes at home to stop contributing to this extensive form of pollution?
What we can do
To start, we need to look at our daily habits in order to recognize our throwaway culture. Look at the amount of plastic you throw away for an entire week, and it's easy to see how quickly it becomes the billions of pounds going into our oceans annually. From there, consider the kinds of single-use plastic in your life, and switch to something reusable.
Do you need a plastic bag for every kind of fruit and vegetable you buy at the food store? Just load them right into your reusable shopping bag.
Choose products and foods that use limited amounts of packaging.
To cut back on Styrofoam, use your own containers for leftovers from restaurants.
Bring your own metal water bottle instead of using plastic bottles or Styrofoam cups.
What other changes can we make at home to reduce the amount of plastic we consume?
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