Global plastic consumption is ruining the world's most beautiful beaches
Posted on 26/03/2019
Did you know that there are 244,000 metric tons of plastic floating in our oceans? Perhaps you'll think about this statistic the next time you take a swim on holiday. The figure is astonishing and the problem is getting worse each day. Some once paradisical beaches around the world are now tarnished by heaps of plastic waste. For instance, the once-beloved Kamilo Beach in Hawaii is now known as Plastic Beach due to the garbage and waste that now lies on its sands. We can expect to keep renaming our beaches in the same manner if the problem isn't addressed soon.
Since plastic production began in the 1950s, it's become an integral part of life, and over 6.9 billion tons of it has become waste. That's a total heavier than 1 billion elephants! A professor at the Universit of Georgia estimates that between 5.3 million and 14 million tons of plastic are abandoned each year in coastal regions alone. The figure is so large it's almost incomprehensible. And for sealife, the plastic in the oceans and on the beaches has turned their habitats into treacherous territory.
How does plastic actually end up in the ocean?
Out of all the plastic that gets created, only nine percent can be recycled. This means that 91 percent of disposable plastic waste is left behind and naturally has to go somewhere. Most plastic hasn't been dumped into the ocean, but has actually blown into the ocean from landfills.
Even worse is the issue of plastic litter that is simply dropped or left behind. Litter left on the streets can be carried by wind or rain into rivers which then lead to the ocean. Rivers around the world are believed to carry up to 100,000 rubbish trucks of plastic. Tourists visiting beaches don't help either and leave behind bottles, food packaging and cigarette butts. Ironically, beautiful beaches that once attracted tourists are now pushing them away.
The beaches around the globe that are suffering the most
Tourists are being turned off by many beaches around the world, and given the amount of plastic pollution, it's easy to see why. Whilst Indonesia might look picture-perfect on Instagram, in reality it's the second largest contributor to marine pollution following China. Kuta beach, one of Bali's most popular tourist destinations, is covered in rubbish during rainy season when plastic from the sea is washed directly onto the shore.
Cambodia's beaches are also heavily polluted and this hasn't gone unnoticed by visitors and news reports alike. Serendipity Beach, a once white and sandy strip of paradise, saw 877 pieces of litter collected per mile during its last beach clean-up. This is representative of a wider issue as 4 million Cambodians don't have access to clean water, and must consume bottled water. Beaches elsewhere aren't immune either, as reports have shown that California, Australia and Canada are all suffering from plastic pollution.
What can be done to help?
There are several easy things that can be incorporated into everyday life to help reduce plastic use. Giving up plastic bags and always carrying a sturdy reusable bag when shopping is a great way to start. Did you know that sea turtles often eat plastic bags in the ocean because they mistake them for jellyfish? And this isn't the only damage to turles plastic has seen, as images have broken the internet showing sea turles with straws stuck in their nostrils. Passing up on plastic straws also goes a long way in helping these precious creatures. Recycle when possible, and always be cautious when visiting beaches not to litter. Even if there is no place to dispose of waste nearby, carry it home as one day it could end up in the ocean.