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Ocean environmentalists say using less plastics and mirco beads will reduce waste in the sea

A close-up shot of trash found on Pounders Beach.
Trash found on Pounders Beach.

The Marine Stewardship Council’s website says the ocean covers more than 70 percent of the earth’s surface and has major effects on the survival of humans. The World Wildlife website states, “There are plenty of actions you can take that will make a big difference for the ocean.”

Why oceans matter

The Marine Stewardship Council website says, “The ocean is essential to life on Earth. ... It regulates the climate, and supplies the oxygen we need to survive.” The National Ocean Service web page says the ocean “produces over half of the world’s oxygen and absorbs 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere.”

As the ocean covers more than 70 percent of the earth’s surface, it plays a major role in our climate and its regulation. The National Ocean Service site states, “The ocean transports heat from the equator to the poles, regulating our climate and weather patterns.”

Another important aspect the ocean provides, according to the website, is medicine. “Many medicinal products come from the ocean, including ingredients that help fight cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease.”

Ways to reduce waste

The World Wildlife website says if “every American sipped out of just five fewer straws per year, we could keep more than 1.5 billion straws out of landfills—and our ocean.” The Oceanic Society’s web page suggests using reusable products instead of using single-use plastics. These products include, “reusable grocery bags, produce bags, bottles, utensils, coffee cups, and dry cleaning garment bags.”

The Oceanic Society’s site also says to be cautious of micro beads, which can be found in toothpaste, body wash and cosmetics. “They readily enter our oceans and waterways through our sewer systems, and affect hundreds of marine species,” Oceanic Society’s website states. “...Avoid products containing plastic micro beads by looking for ‘polyethylene’ and ‘polypropylene’ on the ingredient labels of your cosmetic products.”

Adderly Baur, a freshman from Utah said as a biology major, she has become more aware of the waste around her since being in Hawaii. “I think about waste a lot. We learned a lot about it, and it’s important to be aware of your surroundings ... like ocean life and our coral reefs.”

Waterway and beach cleanups are also effective actions to reduce plastic waste, according to the Oceanic Society’s website. “This is one of the most direct and rewarding ways to fight ocean plastic pollution.”

The Oceanic Society’s website says being aware of and supporting organizations that focus on reducing plastic waste is also a great way to help protect the ocean. “These organizations rely on donations from people like you to continue their important work. Even small donations can make a big difference.”

To visit the Oceanic Society's website with its seven solutions to ocean plastic pollution, click here.

A drone shot of a beach in Laie with the words "Love your ocean" drawn in the sand.
There are many ways to care for the ocean, including participating in beach cleanups.

Plastic: A silent killer

The World Wildlife website says, “With 8 million tons of plastic dumped into the ocean each year, there could be a pound of plastic for every three pounds of fish in the ocean within the next decade alone.”

The site says the rising levels of plastics in the ocean can lead to the destruction of ecosystems and further endanger marine life.

Arianna Lambert, a freshman from Utah majoring in exercise and sport science, said she never thought about the effect consumerism can have on the ocean. “I didn’t realize how much plastic was dumped into the ocean each year and how dangerous the plastic can be to the ocean and the animal life inside.”

The As You Sow website explains some of the major ways plastic affects marine animals. “[Plastic can] become lodged in the digestive systems of animals, leading to impairment or death.”

As You Sow shares, “A recent study found that a quarter of fish at markets in California and Indonesia contain plastic in their guts, mostly in the form of plastic microfibers.”

Toxins within the water can be absorbed by plastic particles that can trickle through the marine food web, possibly leading to humans through consumption, the site states.

According to the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s website, items such as plastic shopping bags, cutlery, disposable plastic cups, plates and bowls are some of the most common and dangerous forms of plastic that affect the oceans. “With safer, non-toxic and earth friendly alternatives available, it’s time to ditch these dangerous plastic products. You have the power to create healthy oceans, full of life,” the site states.

Other ways to help

The World Wildlife website says to help curb the increasing temperatures of the earth that negatively affect the ocean, people can: turn off lights, unplug electronics and walk or ride a bike to work.

The Impact Travel Alliance website recommends choosing a reef-safe sunscreen and not taking anything from beaches. “Anything at the beach should stay there, as it plays a role. Just because you find something on the shore, doesn’t mean it’s not alive.”

It has been illegal in Hawaii since Jan. 1, 2021 to use sunscreens “containing the coral-harming chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, ushering in a new era of reef safe sunscreen,” says “According to the National Park Service, 14,000 tons of sunscreen enter coral reefs every year.”