Summer is a time for relaxing on the beach, reflecting and planning for the future. Los Angeles County boasts over 50 beaches with both locals and tourists flocking to these beaches every summer to enjoy the waves and for some fun in the sun. Unfortunately, this is also the time when plastic pollution increases. Approximately 8 million tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans each year, which threaten over 700 distinct species of marine life. Excessive plastic use and improper disposal continue to increase the amount of plastic entering our oceans. Plastic breaks down into smaller pieces which are being ingested by marine animals and potentially humans as well through contaminated seafood.
Our daily habits can have far-reaching effects, but we can effectively fight plastic pollution by decreasing our dependence on single-use plastic, purchasing products with little to no plastic packaging, and making sure to recycle and dispose properly. Single-use plastic is wasteful and pollutes our land and our oceans. Single-use plastic like straws and stirrers can be used for merely seconds to a few minutes before it gets tossed but takes hundreds of years to decompose. We live in a disposable society that encourages over consumption of plastics. The United States produces a total of over 300 million tons of plastic and over half of those are single-use plastics. Simple changes we can make include refusing a straw when at a restaurant or disposable utensils for takeout and using more reusable items like water bottles and tote bags. For every single-use item, there is a reusable version that is more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly.
Plastic packaging is another common form of single-use plastic but is less evident because it is found in almost all of our purchases. If you buy anything from the store, such as toilet paper, chips, cookies, or order anything online, chances are these items are wrapped in plastic. This particular plastic causes more issues due to the lack of proper disposal and recycling infrastructure. Buying in bulk and being conscious of our purchases are simple changes we can make now.
China recently released their National Sword policy and import bans on recyclable materials. To avoid rejection of materials due to contamination, it is critical that we recycle and dispose of plastics properly. Contamination is caused by improper recycling such as wet or dirty material, non-recyclable items, or trash included in recycling bins. Each city has its own specific recycling requirements, but one common factor is that recyclable material must be clean and dry. Contamination can compromise the entire bin, and potentially result in recyclable materials being landfilled.
Reducing plastic use and proper disposal is essential in preventing it from entering the ocean. It is estimated that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. This is astounding considering the ocean to earth ratio. There has never been a more critical time to participate and be active in the future of the earth and the oceans.