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Saving the oceans from plastics

5 major Oceanic Gyres @ Wikipedia

Did you know that 80% of the plastics in the Oceans come from land?  This trash washes down our rivers and streams and ultimately into the sea. There are 5 major ocean vortices in the world (as well as many small ones). A vortex is recirculating pool of water, think of the spinning water running out of a drain. In the link to the Greenpeace page, above, you can see how the North Pacific Gyre is formed. The intro image shows all five.

Plastic trash anywhere is a real disaster. At the minimum it is an eyesore. Beyond that, it causes damage to marine life that ingest it. In addition, animals can become entangled in the plastic ties, ropes, bags, and drink holders swirling around in the seas.¬†According to that Green Peace page, “it is estimated that over 1 million seabirds and over 100,ooo marine mamals and turtles are killed each year from plastics.”

Another problem with plastics is that many of them are known to attract and concentrate petroleum based toxins that also end up in the seas through runoff from land and, to a smaller extent, from discharges from ships and platforms far out at sea. This can create highly toxic zones in the ocean and be poisonous to organisms when ingested. These toxins will be ingested by plankton, the tiny organisms, free floating in the oceans, that form the bottom of the food chains and be concentrated up the food chain because they are not processed out of the organism but are, instead, stored in the fat of the animal. Eventually, it becomes concentrated enough to kill an animal.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Growing up a Girl Scout I learned to leave a place better than I found it. When we would go on hikes we would carry trash bags to collect the garbage that we found along the way. Even in the 70’s we would find a lot of trash and the quantity of disposable plastic was far less then. For example, nobody had yet thought to sell water in personal bottles and soft drinks still came in glass bottles.Our troops would take our hikes with a few small, easy to carry, garbage bags and collect the litter we found along the way. This is something I’d encourage everyone to do today. Just take a small plastic grocery bag with you when you walk and collect any trash you see along the way to toss in your garbage or recycle bin, as appropriate. Keep a paper towel with you if you are worried about touching things.

I can hear you saying it now, it’s not convenient to carry a trash bag everywhere and what do you do with all that tiny trash that you see or create in your daily travels? The Ocean Conservancy has a cute craft project to make a little container for the tiny litter that one might find along the way. When there isn’t a trash container near and you come upon cigarette butts, bottle caps, and other bits and bobs, you can stash them in the little box to be disposed of later. I can see this as a potential conversation starter as people wonder what the heck you are doing.

Tiny Trash Collector Craft Project @ Ocean Conservancy

This is one of the ways that we can be mindful about what we are doing and how little things add up. It is a simple way to take simple action that, cumulatively, can add up to a significant action. This is one of the lessons that I learned, one of the values that I incorporated into my way of being, little things count. Leave the world better than you found it.

Even if no one else does.

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