We go to the beach to see its natural beauty. If we're lucky, maybe we'll see a dolphin flopping off in the distance, or a whale exploding plumes of vapor above the surface. We never go to the beach to see trash, and yet it's always there. Obviously, the garbage is full of stuff people don't want, like old toothbrushes, flossers, cigarette lighters, shopping bags, popped balloons ... I could go on and on. As you know, most of this junk is made of plastic.

Since most of the disposable plastic can't get recycled it just sits in landfills, releasing toxins. Tons of it journeys down our waterways, into the depths of the oceans or pushed onto the beaches — and most sadly, stuck in the bodies of just about everything that lives on our planet.

Join me exclusively on MNN as I reflect about the impact that human behavior has on our fellow Earthlings. As you can tell, this piece is about the immense problem that's bleeding into our oceans: disposable plastic.

A comic of a sea bird feeding its young plastic bottle caps
(Photo: Rob Lang/Underdone Comics)

Let's take a quick trip to Midway Atoll, which is located between North America and Asia — in other words, an island in the middle of nowhere. Just a few dozen people live there, and yet the tiny patch of land is completely littered with human-produced garbage.

The garbage that's strewn about is not new — it takes quite a long time to reach Midway via the ocean currents. While the plastic is floating around in the ocean, it accumulates algae particles on it, and this algae confuses seabirds, like the Laysan albatross, into thinking the plastic is food. For instance, small lighters are often confused for squid bodies.

A comic of sea birds who think a lit lighter is a 'spicy' squid
(Photo: Rob Lang/Underdone Comics)
A sea bird relates the legend of the lighter 'squid'
(Photo: Rob Lang/Underdone Comics)
A sea bird breathes fire
(Photo: Rob Lang/Underground Comics)

It's not just seabirds that feel the burn from plastics invading their environment. All kinds of animals wind up either eating plastic or getting entangled.

A sea bird compliments a sea turtle on its inventive use of a plastic straw as a breathing tube
(Photo: Rob Lang/Underdone Comics)

Since we humans are causing these problems, we need to find solutions. The animals can't. They have evolved to thrive in their environments. Disposable plastic is less than a century old, they don't have time to adapt — even though I wish they would try!

A swordfish advises two seals on their plastic (ring) surgery options.
(Photo: Rob Lang/Underdone Comics)

Well, some animals do try, like these hermit crabs.

A hermit crab compliments another crab on its KY Jelly tube home
(Photo: Rob Lang/Underdone Comics)

If you're feeling powerless from this suffocating tidal wave of garbage, there are some things you can do. Before the planet gets zip-locked in an airless vacuum filled with hormone disruptors (unpronounceably called phthalates), we can refuse much of this stuff. We need to be pickier, and let those around know it, too. We need to act like this albatross chick:

A sea bird serves up plastic trash for a picky eater of a chick
(Photo: Rob Lang/Underdone Comics)

And tell our own chic--er, children about it. We humans need to change our behavior before every trip to the beach winds up like this:

The fate of us and our beaches

A whale flips up a ball of garbage toward a beach and some sunbathers
A whale flips up a ball of garbage toward a beach and some sunbathers (Photo: Rob Lang /Underdone Comics)

Thanks to Rob Lang for doing a guest stint on the photo blog for MNN! He lives in Seattle, and you can follow him on Instagram/UnderdoneComics, where he posts a new cartoon almost every weekday morning. You can buy shirts, environmentally righteous tote bags, prints and other stuff at UnderdoneComics.com.