If I told you that the world’s most pervasive problem was also the most solvable, would you do something about it? First, let’s define this problem: Marine Litter – Land manufactured products (primarily solids) that end up in the ocean. Marine litter is dumped by our factories onto the streets, and is distributed through our rivers to our pristine oceans and onto our beaches. More often than not, this litter carries pollution from wherever it came from and it can even travel thousands of miles by ocean currents! Humans have been dumping waste into the oceans for centuries, but the types of waste we have now are drastically different from what we started with. Before, our waste was mostly organic, biodegradable, and non-toxic. Now, our waste is synthetic, durable, and highly toxic. We’ve all previously used litter and we’ve all mishandled it out of neglect or ignorance…however, neither is very good. We can talk all day about how bad this litter is for our health (see the May 2019 issue for more information on this), but some people just don’t care because it doesn’t affect their bank accounts…well, actually it does. Marine litter makes shorelines unattractive and dangerous, which is an added maintenance cost that the municipality has to pay for. What if the municipality can’t handle the quantity of waste coming into the environment? Then, tourists will be discouraged from fishing and swimming in the polluted areas, which will further diminish our tourism industry and coastal real estate. Remember, this pervasive problem is HIGHLY solvable…here is how we can solve it:
- First and foremost, EDUCATE yourself! This is the first step in making appropriate choices regarding your waste. Understanding that every piece of trash can be traced back to a single person who made a poor choice in how they disposed of it. Children need to learn this in school and adults need to be re-trained on how to properly dispose of litter. Ocean Conservancy has provided plenty of information on this topic, you can find this information here: <https://oceanconservancy.org/trash-free-seas/>
- Most of the waste comes from things we’ve consumed; food, drinks, cigarettes, and just about anything we buy from the shops. We have to SEEK ALTERNATIVES in the packaging we receive for the goods we love. The truth is, as consumers we can only shoulder part of the responsibility because there are things we just can’t live without, but we can certainly control the amount we consume. The real difference must come from our industries. We need to support companies that switch to glass/aluminum bottles or cardboard for their packaging, and we need to show them that we will continue to support them if they make the switch.
- Lastly, we must DEMAND LEGISLATION AND ENFORCEMENT that supports sustainable living. Did you know that we’ve had laws in Kenya from 2003 that prohibit the dumping of litter and other pollutants into our territorial waters? Would you be surprised to find out that litter is still being dumped in lieu and on top of this law? This a prime example of a symbolic law in which a law is not supported.
Article by Gibbs Kuguru