In honor of the Respect the Fin and the Trashy Girls Collective August collaboration...this week’s blog post is about TRASH! If you haven’t heard the news; for the entire month of August, you can get an exclusive discount code if you pick up a piece (or pieces!) of trash, post a photo of it (them), and tag Respect the Fin and Trashy Girls Collective on Instagram. This is a fun and easy way to use social media as an outlet to promote conservation. It’s also a great use of your time to get involved in making your communities and surrounding wildlife areas cleaner.
Trashy Girls Collective is a group of female scuba-enthusiasts that make it their mission to clean up the ocean. It is so incredible to see participation from followers and watch people make a difference for our planet. How has trash impacted our world? Our oceans? Let’s take a look at how “trashy” things have become, and how we can be better for the wildlife we share this planet with.
Photo Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
This evil goes by many names: garbage, waste, trash, rubbish, litter, debris, junk; but what is it? Trash is unwanted or unusable items that get discarded and then transferred to a landfill, or into our environment. National Geographic says, “There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea.” According to Derek Thompson with the Atlantic, “This year, the world will generate 2.6 trillion pounds of garbage -- the weight of about 7,000 Empire State Buildings.”
Thanks to Sea Stewards, we have some shocking and informative data and statistics that help express how much trash is really in the ocean. To give you an idea of an annual collection of waste, here’s a fact: “Americans generate 10.5 million tons of PLASTIC waste a year but recycle only 1 or 2 % of it.” Now, that is only plastic waste, and there are literal tons of it. Of the world’s trash that is produced—14 billion pounds of it gets deposited straight into the oceans every year.
Plastic in the ocean gets consumed by every single level of the food chain. Additionally, over half (about 70%) of the plastic-related trash sinks to the bottom of the ocean and will not decompose. This particular plastic trash just breaks down into smaller pieces that can be incorporated into the ocean’s composition and food chains. Seasteward says, “One study found Fulmars, ocean-going birds that visit our waters, have over 30 pieces of plastic in their stomachs. A sea turtle found dead off Hawaii had over 1000 pieces of plastics in its intestines.”
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The great Pacific garbage patch has been studied by biologists since the 1970s. The Ocean Clean Up has a series of informational videos that help explain the great Pacific garbage patch. Watch one of them here! The word “patch” does not do this monster justice. Unfortunately, the “patch” is about 1.6 million square kilometers—three times the size of France, and contains 1.8 trillion pieces of garbage which is over 80,000 tons of trash. If we wanted to divide this amongst every human on planet earth, it would be about 250 pieces of trash per person. The patch is made up of much larger items that have begun to fragment and break down. With added elements such as current, wind, and chemical composition, this trash spreads into various levels within the sea and expands its surface area every day.
Photo Source: The Guardian
It comes as no surprise that the current global pandemic has absolutely destroyed our environment—particularly our oceans. Disposable masks have a “lifespan” of 450 years, and they are becoming one of the more common items found on beaches and in oceans. An article from Vancouver Sun says, “The health crisis has seen a shift back toward the use of single-use plastics, including shopping bags, takeaway containers, and cups, as well as the widespread use of disposable masks and gloves.” Due to health and community safety, most stores that previously accepted reusable shopping bags, coffee cups, water bottles, etc. were unable to accept them during the past few months of the pandemic.
Photo Source: NOAA
There are effects from COVID-19 that perhaps not many people think about. For example, many rescue and rehabilitation centers have had to lay off staff, close completely, and stop accepting volunteers. This created a HUGE decrease in rescues of wild animals, bird counts for ornithology and data, and resources for the safety of wildlife during the time of the pandemic. The same article from Vancouver Sun says, “As well, the report says the pandemic lockdowns prevented volunteers from doing bird counts or helping to release salmon fry to repopulate waterways, restoring habitats, beach clean-ups, and monitoring marine species in order to gather data.”
How Can We Help?
Here is a list of different things you can do every single day to help clean up our planet, create sustainable habits, and help conserve wildlife and their habitats.
Photo Source: National Wildlife Federation
- Join a beach or trail clean up
- Create an at-home compost station—learn how here!
- Carry a trash bag with you when hiking
- Reduce, reuse, recycle
- Choose reusable items whenever possible
- Bring reusable take-out containers to restaurants
- Carry a reusable water bottle everywhere you go
- Have reusable utensils and straws on-hand
- Make or buy a reusable mask
- Leave no trace! ALWAYS PICK UP YOUR TRASH
- Camp responsibly, pack everything out
- Buy in bulk
- Repurpose items for a second or third-time use!
- Donate to local wildlife rehabilitation centers or marine mammal rescue centers
- Create a fundraiser on your birthday for a non-profit helping to reduce the trash in our oceans
- Adopt a dive site with Project AWARE
- Swap out plastic items—ideas here!
I hope you learned something about trash! It is so important to stay dedicated and vigilant when it comes to helping the planet. If you’re interested in other ways to reduce your carbon footprint and create sustainable habits, please read our previous Respect the Fin blog posts on going green, reef-safe sunscreen, and Earth Day 2020. Please encourage your friends and family to participate in the August Respect the Fin trash challenge, and have a great week!
Written By: Bailey Higa