The production of plastics has increased dramatically over the past 60 years (from 1.7 million tons in 1950 to 359 million tons in 2018), with microplastics now considered a serious threat to ocean ecosystems and beaches. Some of the many negative effects microplastics have on wildlife include intoxication, entanglement and ingestion. Unfortunately, many microplastics resemble the plankton that fish normally eat, and their ingestion can prove fatal to numerous species. Wind and currents bring up to 12.7 million tons of plastic litter to the ocean in a given year, with some being deposited along the coastlines and on beaches. If you are a beach lover and you are committed to protecting the integrity of the coastline while saving the lives of marine life, the following tips may be useful.
Microplastics On The Beach
Microplastics are so tiny that they can seem like part of the sand. They can be present in pink, orange, yellow, red, and other hues that can blend in with their surroundings, since sand itself can contain a number of different colored elements. In one study undertaken in Germany, it was found that the number of microplastics found on the beach was even higher than those found in a local sewage treatment plant. Factors such as heavy use by tourists and littering are key, so the first step you can take to preserve the integrity of beaches is to dispose of litter responsibly when you are on the beach, using available beach garbage cans or keeping your litter in your bag and disposing of it as soon as you see an available dumpster or garbage can.
Reduce Your Reliance On Plastic
Not all plastic that ends up on beaches and in oceans is the result of beach litter. Factors such as wind, rain, floods and wastewater all carry plastic from the land into the sea. These include straws, plastic bags, wrappers and gadgets - all of which can break down into tiny plastics that marine animals consume to their detriment. Reduce or eliminate single-use plastics at work and at home. If you are a manager or entrepreneur, you can make a big difference in your office by conducting a waste audit, incentivizing employees to switch from plastic to glass or other sustainable materials, and encouraging home lunches. Bringing lunch reduces the presence of plastic food containers in the office. You should also establish norms for recycling, and aim to work alongside eco-friendly partners to make a difference in your local community. Undertake similar measures at home, making an effort to recycle, reuse and upcycle as many items as you can.
Volunteer For Beach Clean-Ups
Check out local eco-friendly Facebook groups if you live near the beach, since many conduct beach cleaning days. Doing so is also a fun way to meet people who value the beach and ocean the way you do, and to take part in a plethora of projects with a view to reducing the microplastic abundance. Some projects and groups (including Save the Coastal Wildlife and the Plastic Wave Project) undertake studies and need volunteers to help determine which beaches have the highest concentrations of microplastics in order to help educate others about microplastics and to take samples from different locations on the beach (the dune line, high tide line, and low tide line, specifically).
Microplastics are tiny non-biodegradable particles which are threatening ocean life. They are present in the water and on the beach in abundance. To help battle the microplastic wave, reduce your use of single-use plastics, establish recycling and other eco norms in your office and at home, and join local groups for activities like beach clean-ups. If you have more time on your hands, take part in studies, helping scientists to measure microplastic levels on a beach near you.
Written by Jeniffer Dawson