Small actions with big impact
I've heard those in the know say that all the conventional plastic that has even been produced still exists today, in one form or another. Over time plastic pollution photo-degrades, breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces. Go to most beaches and you'll see some kind of plastic debris, and I'm not just talking about the big stuff. Mixed in with the sand we love to feel between our toes are tiny fragments of micro plastic. Look close enough and you'll see them.
We can all agree that the large stuff is ugly, and it's obvious that animals can become tangled or trapped in certain types of debris. But some fragments are so small, what damage could they possibly do? Turns out that smaller fragments are perfectly bite-sized for fish and other animals, so they can wreak havoc on the animals's digestive ability. Some can starve while they have a full stomach! Not only that, fragments of plastic tend to accumulate toxins such as endocrine disrupting chemicals which further impact the animal's health.
We know there's a problem. Plastic pollution has become the scourge of the ocean. So what can you and I do?
The small stuff, and the big stuff collected from Chinaman's beach, Agnes Water, Qld, Australia. Pics: Kelli Anderson
For starters we can change the way we consume and dispose of plastic products, but that's a whole other story. In a nut shell we need to redesign, reduce, reuse, and recycle, in that that order. We can also take a more direct approach. There are some great initiatives out there that are encouraging us to use our own Two Hands (Project) and Take3 for the sea. To help clean up our marine ecosystems you don't have to spend hours collecting debris, just do what you can when you can. It can be as simple as taking a few pieces of rubbish with you when you leave. Or if you're a diver, keep a mesh bag in your BCD so you're ready to grab any trash you come across. You can do this on every dive which is ideal, or you can join an organised clean-up dive such as those hosted by Project Aware.
A few people can make a big impact! Pics: Two Hands Project (middle) and Kelli Anderson
Once you've collected some plastic pollution, be sure to share it on social media and encourage others to do the same. You can also add the type and amount of debris you've collected to the Tangaroa Blue database to helps scientists keep track of what's happening in our oceans.