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Marine litter kills

By Staff | Jan 10, 2018

To the editor:

Marine litter, or marine debris, is a huge environmental issue. Marine litter is waste materials, like plastic and such, that end up in our oceans, lakes, or waterways. Plastic is the most commonly sighted manmade object at sea with 18,000 pieces of plastic litter on every square kilometer of the world’s oceans. According to perseus-net.eu, 5.5 million pieces of trash are deposited by boats every day into the ocean.

Most notice this issue by just going to the beach. Our beaches are littered with signs of marine debris. Picture this: you’re walking along the soft sand as you hear the calming break of the waves upon the shore. A heartbreaking sight interrupts your stupor – the mangled body of dead sea turtle, distorted from the constant pushing, pulling, and nudging of the waves. You know why the gorgeous sea creature has died. Its innocent consumption of plastic and other waste materials has ended the turtle’s life. Many have encountered this situation at one point in their lives.

A large part of the issue is how long the materials take to break down. From two years to one million years, waste is slow to break down, or biodegrade, in our oceans. Paper bus and parking tickets take two to four years to biodegrade while fishing nets take 600 years or longer, depending on their thickness. Glass bottles are the lengthiest at 1 million years.

Animals are constantly being harmed by marine litter in various ways. They can get entangled in, or even eat, the litter. Marine debris can be the cause of invasive species that thrive in the garbage polluted areas. As the litter is transported around the world, the species that live in the debris are transported to foreign areas, and they can upset the food chains there.

A little less-well known is how marine litter affects humans. It can endanger human health when someone walking down the beach steps on a sharp piece of broken glass. Also, the garbage clogged oceans can cause damage to shipping vessels. Finally, the garbage can concentrate toxic pollutants. This can contaminate the plastics and other trash. Then the contaminated plastics can be ingested by fish, enter the food chain, and could even be eaten by us humans.

Marine debris is a ginormous issue in today’s society. It can endanger so many living things and can ruin daily life. Because the materials can take hundreds of years to biodegrade and it has a devastating impact on all animals, including humans, Marine litter is a big environmental issue. Although all may seem hopeless, there are ways that even you can get involved to put a halt to the steadily increasing amount of litter in today’s oceans. By simple switches in everyday life, such as using reusable cups and reusing water bottles and grocery bags, you can have a big impact. You could also avoid excess packaging on the things that you buy. Finally, a huge help would be to get involved in beach clean up teams to help make sure that Lee County’s beaches are spick and span!

For more information, check out my website, marinelitterhope.weebly.com/.

Mary Herndon

student, Oasis Middle School, Cape Coral