“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”
— Robert Swan
What is Marine Debris?
Marine debris is one of the most serious pollution problems facing our oceans. Marine debris can be defined as any man-made, solid material that enters the sea, either directly or indirectly. The most prevalent issues are with floating debris, which causes entanglement and ingestion by marine animals. Marine debris on the sea floor affects the number and type of creatures found in the benthos, and could have impacts further up the food chain.
“There is no such thing as ‘away’. When we throw anything away it must go somewhere.”
— Annie Leonard
Marine Debris Statistics
- Over 6 million tons of solid waste enters the sea every year.
- Plastic is the most abundant form, making up approximately 60-80% of all marine debris.
- 80% of marine debris originates from land. The other 20% is dumped directly into the sea.
- The production of plastic consumes approximately 8% of the earth’s oil supply.
- Global plastic resin production reached 288 million tons in 2012, a 620% increase since 1975.
- Almost 300 million tons of plastic is created every year, but only 5 million tons are recycled.
- 50-80% of turtles found dead have ingested plastic.
“We are living on this planet as if we had another one to go to.”
— Terri Swearingen
What Can We Do?
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Any reduction in plastics usage benefits the environment and reusing or recycling will reduce the environmental impact.
Raise Awareness: How can you encourage others to be environmentally conscious? What long-term changes do you need to make as an individual, and what changes would you like to see from others?
Clean-Up: Participating in beach or river clean-ups reduces the amount of waste in the ocean. Every individual action adds up.
Dive Against Debris: During a dive expedition, you may complete a dive against debris, removing trash from the ocean during a dive. As you go, you will record details about the debris you remove. This information will be sent to Project AWARE, an international body which campaigns on marine issues. Project AWARE collects data from dives against debris across the globe, and uses this data to inform its campaigns, and to direct conservation efforts to where they are likely to have greatest success.
“Be a part of the solution, not a part of the pollution.”
Manukan Beach Clean-Up
On July 23, 2017, [email protected] participated in a 1 hour clean-up on Manukan Beach, just outside of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, Borneo. Participants included Andrew Keogh, Anita and James Schneider, and myself.
When others on the beach saw what we were doing, we got some mixed reactions. Some people looked at us as if we were out of our minds. Others paid us no attention. However, there were a few people that noticed what we were doing and joined in! One man visiting on vacation told us to “keep up the great work”.
My Personal Reflection
Seeing the amount of trash in/near the ocean in Malaysia broke my heart. Becoming a PADI diver and participating in the [email protected] 2017 program has made me a lot more sensitive to the issue of marine debris. I’ve gotten to experience some amazing marine life, up close & personal. However, the fact that these animals are in danger because of human actions is absolutely devastating to me. I want everyone to have a chance to see the things I’ve seen.
As I was cleaning up Manukan beach, I felt like I was making a difference. Seeing others seeing us and wanting to help out made me smile, especially a young boy whose name I did not get. He spoke no English, but that didn’t barricade him from lending us a helping hand.
No matter where you come from, no matter your age, gender, color or creed, you have the power to make the change you want to see in the world.