Article Updated: [1-4-2015]
Recycle: It’s a word we all keep hearing and something we know we should be doing more often but we don’t really think much about it since we figure trash is just something that gets taken away and we never have to see it again. Well, guess what? Thanks to those lazy habits of just throwing everything in the trash instead of making sure it gets recycled, there are trillions of pieces of trash in the ocean now. It’s easy to understand how a lot of that ends up there when you think about all those barges on the water that carry trash to islands and the wind knocking off some of it along the way. That’s not the main reason but just a small part of the whole picture.
A Study done by Markus Eriksen et al of the 5 Gyres Institute showed that by collecting samples of trash over the surface of the ocean they were able to estimate the amount of garbage in the ocean. Understand this did not take into account trash that is sitting on the ocean floor which could very well push that number even higher when you think about all the things that people have dumped way out in the ocean so no one would know about it.
The surprising thing about garbage is how much of it is recyclable and how much effort schools and the government try to encourage people to recycle their trash. Many cities now have rules in place that if you don’t recycle correctly they will fine you which is a good place to start but for people with money it doesn’t seem to phase them as much. Again, they feel they can just buy cleanness. Every state has some program in place that encourages drivers not to litter because that causes the roads to look dirty. It requires a large amount of man hours to have people come out and clean them up. What really bothers me is when I’m driving and I still see people throwing their cigarette butts out the window and even trash. What they don’t realize, for many that live near rivers and ocean’s is that the wind can pick them up and end up in places that they shouldn’t be in. Animals don’t know the difference so they try to find out what is inside of them, especially plastic bags, where if they are lying on the surface of the ocean can trap a bird inside and even drown if they are not careful. The reality though is that they shouldn’t be worrying about drowning from a plastic bag because it is our responsibility to keep that away from them.
You Already Know What You Need To Do, So Do It!
People know they should recycle but they need to realize that trash multiples everyday, just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not a problem. So here is how you can stop this horrible human habit.
1. Start Composting – Instead of throwing your fruit peels or left over food in the trash create in a pile in the backyard and put them there and throw leaves on top with dirt. After awhile it will start to break down and you can use that stuff to fertilize your yard. You will help the environment and create a nutrient rich soil for your yard.
2. Create your own backyard garden – Using the fertilizer you made from your new compost pile your garden will soon grow faster thanks to all the nutrients in the ground for it to feed off of. You will be able to grow your own vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers which will save you lots of money in the long run.
3. Have several different trash cans for different things – Label your trash cans by their objects: Glass, Compost, Plastic, Aluminum, Tin, Trash. Then use them accordingly. Many places let you come and drop off your aluminum in exchange for cash.
4. Check to find out where a recycling center is – Many times if you live in a small area it is difficult to have that many bins to recycle with. Instead just have one large bag for recycling and then take it to the recycling center. Many times you can just sort the items there or they will sort them for you.
5. Always try to make sure you buy products that can be recycled – Don’t buy anything that has to be thrown away. For example, styrofoam is impossible to break down so try to buy eggs in plastic containers or shop at local markets that let you bring your own reusable egg containers so you only pay for the number of eggs you take. You can recycle styrofoam but it is hard to find places that do.
6. Encourage kids to get in the habit of recycling – Make them aware of how many things can be recycled and what bin they go in. For example if you are done with a computer, make sure all its parts get recycled. FInd a place that takes old computer parts and recycles them. Majority of all plastic can be recycled but just look under the container for a triangle and inside it is a number that will tell you where it can be recycled.
This issue is a huge problem because it only means that animals are getting caught in our trash that is floating out there. For those that like eating fish, remember they are swimming out there with all our trash surrounding them. Doesn’t sound pleasant to eat now, huh? All those products that leak liquids or toxic chemicals into the ocean have a way of coming back to us when we order anything that comes from the ocean. That’s how nature works.
The recent plane crashes into the ocean are difficult to find in the vastness of the ocean, and it makes the search harder when trash is floating at the top of the water which confuses pilots for missing bodies. It takes their focus away from finding what they need too, but in the meantime they must still exam the trash because bodies can get caught in the many drift nets that fishermen toss out into the ocean when they are done using them. This report by CNN shows just how big of a problem trash is in our oceans, even during search and rescue missions. Divers are constantly coming across trash floating all around them. Fish eat this stuff, especially plastics which cause many of them to ingest dangerous chemicals, which sometimes end up back on our plates.
To learn more about this problem you can check out the news stories below, read the full study, and start making it a habit to recycle. Just remember don’t make excuses about doing it.
A good book to read to help create products that are 100% recyclable is Cradle to Cradle by Williams McDonough. Even the book is made to be recycled.
Just remember this study only covered what’s in the ocean, it doesn’t include trash found on land. When you try to guess what that number would be well, it’s pretty sad.