Why picking up 1 piece of trash a day could change the world
5 Minute Read
“More than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year” (Plastic Oceans Foundation), and that number is expected to increase tenfold in the next decade. If this doesn’t put your radars on high alert, let’s take a look at it from a health perspective: over 700 species of marine life have ingested these plastics, and a study by the University of California found that 1 in 4 fish at a fish market has man-made debris in its gut. Guess what’s for dinner? Pescado con plastico!
Still, not buying it? Alright then…let’s talk money. Our plastic pollution problem, and I use the word ‘our’ very intentionally, costs about $13 billion USD in damage every year. These “costs stem from the plastic’s impact on marine life, tourism, fisheries and businesses” (United Nations).
You’re probably wondering how there’s any way we can fix this problem, but the best way is to lead by example and let the rest fall into place.
I recently visited my family in Trinidad and Tobago. After going for a kayak, my father mentioned that there was a lot of trash along the shoreline and in the mangroves. The next day, I decided to see for myself. I took 3 plastic bags (ironic, I know), a steak knife, and a scissors to see what I could extract. I thought I’d remove a little trash, but I didn’t realize just how much there would be.
Here is what I collected after about 45 minutes: 3 bags filled with nylon, rope, and disintegrated plastic bags. I call this the survey round because I didn’t even scratch the surface of what was out there. It was high tide when I went out, so it was difficult to see most of the garbage because it was entangled in the mangrove roots below the water.
My dad offered to join me the next day and we ventured out at low tide. We took two kayaks and after a few hours, we had filled an entire kayak with trash and towed it behind the other kayak as we took it back to shore.
The majority of the trash consisted of marine ropes, fishing lines, buoys, and plastic bags. All entangled in the roots of the mangroves. Some of the nets had been there for so long that the roots had swallowed them as they grew. We also found an abundance of plastic bottles, polypropylene sacks (the kind used for transporting sand or soil), and even a backpack. It was so hard to fathom how all of this ended up in the sea. The following day, we went back for the third and final round and filled yet another kayak of trash.
Now you may be thinking that what we collected doesn’t even put a dent into the amount of trash floating in the sea. You would be right if you were just looking at this instance in isolation, but it’s important to also look at the ripple effect.
Just 2 weeks after our ocean cleanup, the videos and pictures we shared online have gotten over 3300 views and shares. They’ve encouraged other people to do their own beach clean ups, and the ripple effect is very tangible.
Another thing to think about: This is what we removed over several collective hours. What if we did that once a month in different bays, beaches and wetlands? The effect would be sizable, and could exponentially affect the marine life and ecosystems in those areas.
Let’s take it a step further. What if everyone picked up just 1 piece of trash a day? With the world’s population at 7.6 billion people, even if 1% picked up ONE piece of trash everyday, that would add up to over 27.7 billion pieces of trash a year.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be part of that 1%. The 1% that makes a difference.
Here’s the video we put together over the 3-Day Cleanup:
And here are some photos from along the way:
I know that this is a really blurry shot, but I included it to show you how entangled the mangrove was when we found it.
We were able to salvage this marine rope, which was at least 100 feet long and fully intact. We gave it to my cousin who will be using it on his fishing boat.
This is my dad, removing the trash from the kayak. In case you ever wondered how I became so conscious of the environment, its all because of him.
All it takes is 1% to totally flip the switch on this plastic pollution problem.