Trash on beach - photo by Amy KerrWhen you see a plastic bag on the ground or on the beach do you pick it up, or do you walk away? Is it someone else’s problem or is it yours? We’ve been taught that littering is wrong our entire lives — it’s unsightly and inconsiderate. But science is now telling us it’s so much more than that.
Consider the photo above of just some of the trash we encountered on the beach on our daily walk here in Gloucester, MA – plastic grocery bags, plastic rope, and  plastic drink and snack containers. As unsightly as they are, here’s the dangerous reality of trash on the beach and elsewhere:

  • eliza_0010 Plastic bags look like jellyfish and block the digestive tracks of sea turtles
  • Fishing gear causes entanglements of marine mammals and can lead to injury and death
  • Plastic containers wear down into sand-like particles and enter the food web
  • Polystyrene leaches endocrine-disrupting chemicals which bioamplify up the food web
  • Plastic sheeting from greenhouses has been found in the stomachs of dead whales
  • Balloons released are mistaken for food by marine life
  • Sea birds mistake plastic trash for food and feed them to their chicks

“Midway: A Message from the Gyre” is a new film premiering in 2014 about the albatross of Midway Atoll, one of the most remote islands in the Pacific. The horrors of our creation are on display there, where chicks are filled with plastic trash by their parents and their carcasses lay as tragic reminders. You can view the trailer here.
So what can you do? Here a start:

  • Choose reusable alternatives to singe-use items such as bags and cups
  • Pick up the trash you see – the ocean is downhill from everything
  • Learn about the dangers of plastics in the oceans from the Plastic Pollution Coalition
  • Get inspired to reduce your waste and live well from the Zero Waste Home blog
  • Watch the documentary “No Impact Man” for a humorous look at living waste-free in a relationship

 Everything you buy will eventually become trash. It’s only a matter of time.  –Roger Payne

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