Marine litter is a huge problem in our world. This page intends to explain in a short way what marine litter is and we can do about it.
Here is the 2016 marine litter survey for Barkley Sound
What is marine litter?
Marine litter is defined as any object that is not naturally occurring in the oceans. This is anything from an apple core you throw in the ocean to plastic bags, micro beads you flush out of the sink, ropes, abandoned or lost fishing gear etc. These object depending on their materials will break down quickly, slowly or not at all. They also have severe impacts on the ecosystems, the animals and possibly human health.
Marine litter in numbers:
the estimate amount of currently in the oceans of the world is 800 million tonnes. the current influx of marine litter is estimated around 8 million tonnes per year. 80% of the marine litter is land based meaning the pollution originated on land and ended up in the ocean. – 75% of the marine litter is plastics of many different types.
The plastics that we produced since 1950 are still around to a large degree. We distinguish between marco plastics (> 5mm) , micro plastics (<5mm- >300 nm) and nano plastics (<300nm).
The “logic” behind marine litter:
There is a way to understand marine litter and it is called the DPSIR model. This stands for Drivers, Pressures, State, Impact and Responses. It is a useful tool for people from many different background and disciplines to understand the issues and talk the same language.
A simple example would be: Driver: the need for recreation and to have drink. Pressure: the production of canned soda with the plastic six pack rings and their disposal in the environment. State: six pack rings in the ocean and birds and fish eating or chocking on them. Impact: reduced biodiversity and reduced fish stocks and reduced recreational value of beaches. Responses: better waste bin option at beaches, legislation to make the six pack rings illegal and or alternative / better options for the six pack rings.
As you can see from this very simple example it provides a universal way of talking about this matter.
What you can do to reduce marine litter:
The short and simple answer is refuse, reduce, re-use and recycle. Small things in your daily life will have a cumulative impact. Given that 80% of litter ending up in the ocean comes from land based sources it is clear that dealing with preventing marine litter lies on land.
Refuse: Don’t accept plastic bags in the stores.
Reduce: Try to buy in bulk and products with minimal packaging.
Re-use: Chose products that can used multiple time. E.g. Ziplock bags can be washed and use multiple times.
Recycle: dispose of materials in the proper ways. Many products can be recycled. If it ends up in the garbage make sure it can’t be blown away or taken away by critters.