As many already know, the current problem our beaches are facing is litter–especially the disposal of plastics. Companies and individuals throw their recyclable trash in the oceans, causing it to build up and affect wildlife. The worst part is that some of this plastic can last in the ocean for several hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of years, Different environmental groups and organizations are now planning volunteer activities to clean the beaches on regular basis, and many travelers are looking to give back while they head to a new destination.
I found myself constantly picking up trash when I was in Bali. Instead of enjoying my time on the islands, I decided to do my very own beach clean and pick up plastic with some of the other members of our tour. While it was a small way to give back, when you add more people, it can really make a difference. Every year, thousands of people volunteer worldwide for beach cleans. According to the Ocean Conservancy, 300 million pounds of waste has been collected in 30 years. Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go.
What is a beach clean?
Beach cleaning as an activity is very important because it not only cleans up the area, but it brings more awareness to the marine plastic problem. Apart from the industrial trash, another big issue plaguing our oceans is the litter due to the dumping of bottle caps, cigarette butts, plastic wrappers, and tires. These are all individual contributions.
Beaches are the main source of livelihood for many countries. Bali is one example–tourists flocked to the island for its stunning oceans, only to pollute it with plastic. Since then, fewer people might choose to visit, which ends of hurting the local economy and the tourist apparatus.
Beach cleans also offer an opportunity to teach local people about how to properly dispose of trash and how they can properly take care of their beaches so tourist continue to want to visit. Part of the reason there is so much trash in certain areas is because locals don’t have access to opportunities to get rid of plastics the right way or through recycling.
Plastic often travels or ends up in strange places, and the amount and nature of the waste varies from place to place. An isolated area of south Atlantic was recently cleaned up and volunteers were told that the bottles in the trash are never been sold on the island or any nearby areas. They came from Asian countries floating in the trash. That trash was not due to the poor waste practices on the island, but due to the fishing fleets in the nearby waters. This shows how far plastic can travel from one end of the world to the next.
Of course, marine life is most affected by the plastics in the ocean. Not only can they be caught, strangled, or maimed by plastic in the water, but they can also swallow it thinking it is food. This directly affects us as humans since it is likely to also be in our seafood.
Reasons to join a beach clean
There are many reasons to join a beach clean, and all of them can be personal or just because you might have a free afternoon. You might have your own reasons for joining. For me, cleaning a beach reminds me of my practices when I return home and what I need to do in terms of recycling and trying not to dispose of plastics. Here are some other reasons why you might want to join on your next trip.
Trash impact on marine ecosystem
Billions of pounds of trash in the oceans causes serious problems for the marine life. Apart from killing of birds, turtles and other species, micro plastics are something that can affect every link in the food chain. Picking up plastic bottles from the ocean even on a very small scale can make a huge difference. Best part? It takes an afternoon or morning out of your day–not much of a commitment!
All you need is a mesh bag, gloves, and some free time. While you can join an organized group if you want to make some new friends, you can also head to the beach and clean up on your own for your own environmentally-friendly treasure (or trash) hunt. Just make sure that when you’re done you properly dispose of the trash so it doesn’t end up back in the ocean.
Every single person on the planet is responsible for the plastics in the ocean (well, those who use plastics). Owning up to that responsibility is not only the right thing to do, but it also inspires making changes. We can all do a little more for the environment, whether that is making an effort to turn off the air conditioning when leaving your apartment or choosing to head to the beach for a clean.
It makes you feel good
Every year a huge number of people volunteer for the beach clean programs. For many, collecting of the piles of trash seems like an achievement. It’s okay to do something for the environment because it makes you feel good, and a beach clean is a very direct way to give back with tangible results.
Meet like-minded people
Almost everyone at a beach clean is likely invested in making the world a better place. Not only can this help you to feel less alone while facing a big problem, but it can also make the job a lot more fun when you have some people to hang out with!
How to join a beach clean up
If you are looking for a beach clean near you, you can use Ocean Conservancy’s interactive map to locate one you might want to join. All you need to do is register since most beach cleans offer bags and gloves for free when you get there. You can find them almost all over the world as more and more individuals look to dispose of plastics and help the oceans. Here are some more sites that offer opportunities for beach cleans:
Have you ever joined a beach clean? Did you do it on your own or with a group?
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