Ocean Blue Blog
by Karisa Boyce
Do You Know How Much Clean Air the Ocean Produces?
We are mostly all aware of the benefit that trees provide for the planet, especially the air. Environmentally speaking, trees are so highly valued that we often hear about tree planting movements like the United Nation’s Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign and Kenya’s Green Belt Movement that has inspired the planting of 51 million trees.
Right now, in one of the poorest places on Earth, an entire continent is working on a tree planting movement called The Great Green Wall that spans 20 countries. Africa is creating local jobs, providing food security, and creating a symbol of peace that will prevent millions of climate refugees from migrating to Europe.
The Great Green Wall is one of the simplest ways to directly address climate change, but there’s another way that people aren’t talking about.
Beach cleanups directly affect climate change. According to founder of Ocean Blue Project, Richard Arterbury, this is because “every time a wave hits the beach, it creates a filtration system.” Foam that we see on the beach is a “protein skimmer” that rids the ocean of nitrates and plastic.
Where does all this ocean plastic come from?
Much of the plastic in the ocean today is coming from multiple land and sea based sources. Marine plastic can come from fishing boats who either dump it intentionally or accidentally lose equipment at sea.
Tiny plastic beads come from products used by humans. Sometimes recycled plastic pellets, called nurdles, are shipped in large containers across the ocean from one country to another on their way to be melted back down and turned into new products. These pellets may end up in the ocean when a shipping container spills during a storm.
Other plastics come from litter in cities that go from urban streams to rivers, eventually making their way to the ocean. Plastics also come off of our clothing in the washing machine, with thousands of tiny particles going down the drain, through wastewater treatment plants, and are unintentionally dumped into the rivers with each load.
The same goes for tiny microbeads in exfoliating hygiene products that many of us use every day. All of these plastic particles, large and small, are broken down by the sun and end up forming “plastic soup” gyres where the toxic plastic particles are eaten by plankton and small fish, who are then eaten by larger fish, which is turning into a major human health concern.
Plastic pollution has been accumulating in the world’s ocean for decades. In the 1980s, land-based plastic and polystyrene products made up 90% of marine debris. Much of this pollution came from landfills that sit adjacent to water and entry by way of rivers. Even as far back as 1974 it was reported that bottom trawls collected plastic bottles by the bushel. In 2004, researchers concluded that the majority of marine litter is plastic which derives from pollution dumped on beaches, lakes, and other tributaries that flow to the ocean.
Boxed Water is Better
Proud Partners for Clean Healthy Ocean and Plastic Free Beaches
Ocean Blue organizes beach cleanups because picking up plastic off the beach is one way to work with nature. Richard believes that, “if you work with nature, nature will work with you.” He reveals that there is no need to clean up plastic from the middle of the ocean in a million dollar boat. Instead, we can simply pick it up off the beach.
We need to get to the plastic pollution on the beaches before high tide takes it back out to sea to be broken down further, “like polishing of rocks,” where it becomes a “plastic soup.” The fragments become something that can no longer be picked up. Beach cleanups are one of the most important things to do in the world today.
But how does plastic in the World’s Ocean contribute to global warming?
The ocean has a delivery system that helps us prevent plastic from becoming soup in the World’s Ocean and we must keep it clean for future generations. This is because plastic pollution in the ocean is one factor that is directly responsible for climate change.
One celled plants that live in the ocean are at the foundation for the production of somewhere around half the world’s oxygen, with grasses, shrubs, and trees producing the other half. Phytoplankton depend on photosynthesis to grow, a process that produces oxygen as a bi-product. Ocean Deoxygenation is occuring in part because phytoplankton are being choked out from toxic chemicals in the ocean, which like to cling to plastic particles.
Since plastic never truly goes away, and people keep buying plastic products, plastic particles are the main contributor to “garbage patches” floating in the ocean. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) urges everyone to be responsible with our garbage by disposing of it properly, to participate in local cleanups, and to “remember that the land and sea, no matter where you are, are connected”.
NOAA also reports that Between 1960 and 2010, ocean oxygen levels have dropped from between 2% and 4% in some parts of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. If this trend continues, we are in for rough waters ahead. Not only will the food chain be enormously impacted, we will be seeing levels of marine life death that humans have never known before. Not to mention the impact to atmospheric O2 levels that sustain all life on Earth.
Let us remain hopeful though, and by that I mean take action. What good is hope without making change happen? Help Ocean Blue in our efforts to clean the World’s Ocean!
You can join us if you live near the coast on the National Beach Cleanup Tour 2018, or you can pledge to pick up two pieces of trash every day. Every piece counts!
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