Frightening spectre of marine litter

EDITOR – We all are led to believe most land waste ends up in the middle of the oceans, thus putting our marine life at danger.

This cannot be denied when we humans are fully responsible for all litter, whether it be on land, or litter drifting our oceans hundreds of nautical miles away. Researchers have compiled that at least 80% of litter floating in our oceans daily is from land waste. When debris – plastic bags, bottles, cigarette butts and so on – is discarded on the ground, it gets washed into storm water drains and directly into our water ways, then enters our seas.

The lifespan (decomposition time) of some commonly littered items on land:

  • Cigarette butt: One to five years
  • Plastic bag: 10 to 20 years
  • Chewing gum: Not biodegradable (it’s the second most common form of litter after cigarette butts)
  • Aluminum can: 200 to 500 years
  • Glass bottle: One million years.

One must think logically that when litter gets washed into stormwater drains and waterways and eventually into the sea, sea waves and ocean currents play a pivotal role and eventually wash most of this debris back onto our beaches, polluting them. Only a small fraction of land waste floats into the sea and then into the oceans far from our beaches.

The real polluters that are fully responsible for ocean litter which kills our marine life and puts our human lives also at risk, is fishing trawlers and luxury cruise liners.

Few of us are aware that ships dump their waste directly into the oceans daily. I know this for a fact as a few years ago on board a luxury liner, I decided to take a walk around on the upper deck at around 1am of this very luxury liner and at the stern of the ship, I looked down and was horrified to witness all sorts of debris being dumped into the far oceans in the dark of the night. This debris comprised of plastic bags, tins, plastic bottles, glass bottles and most probably food waste as well. All this I witnessed with my own eyes. The cruise staff must have thought all passengers were in their cabins asleep at the time.

I brought this to environmentalists attention globally, but all want evidence to my findings in providing some form of photos or a video to prove my case.

The real culprits polluting our oceans are getting away with their bad habits daily. Ships out at sea are the big polluters, not only us on land.

It’s shocking to think that 400 million tonnes of plastic have entered our oceans since 1950, of which 37 million tonnes of litter is buried in the sea beds each year and 250,000 tonnes of litter floats on the surface ocean.

We all have a responsibility when it comes to disposing of litter in a proper manner, and that is in a dirt bin. If only the careless minded who are behind all this litter, land or sea, will see the broader negative impact litter has on our daily lives and what destruction litter in the future will play. It’s scary to even think of it.

KEITH THURLEY

  AUTHOR
South Coast Sun

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