Swimming in Plastic
STORY BY Ashley Olmedo
Earth Day has come and gone, but beach and ocean pollution is still an issue. Plastic, plastic and more plastic can be found washed ashore on beaches or floating amongst the tide. According to National Geographic, there are an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean, and about eight million metric tons enter the ocean from land every year.
According to Biological Diversity, “In the Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day.” This includes plastic bags, plastic and glass bottles, straws, and Styrofoam cups and containers. Trash is carried into the ocean by wind and rain. Trash found along the streets get swept into sewers once it rains, which then ends up in the ocean. Beaches near river mouths are another way for trash and bacteria to travel into the ocean, especially during rainy season.
All this plastic is accumulating in the ocean creating great patches of plastic in the middle of ocean gyres. These great patches look like plastic islands of trash that take over the ocean’s surface. The world’s largest collection of trash is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is located between Hawaii and California. It’s often said to be the size of Texas and can be seen from space. According to National Geographic, although the Patch is made up of plastic bottles and packaging, much of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is abandoned fishing gear. Plastic alone takes about 400 years to break down.
This abundance of trash damages the environment, kills ocean life and hurts humans. More than 260 species of sea life consume non-biodegradable plastic materials. Many of them are fish; fish that ultimately end up in our grocery stores and on our plates. Year after year, animals wash ashore with their stomachs full of plastic. Sea turtles confuse plastic bags as jellyfish and die of starvation because their body cannot digest it. Dolphins, birds, otters, and sea turtles also get stuck in plastic soda rings, often causing deformation and death. Many other sea animals are also getting stuck in the trash, causing more than 100,000 marine deaths a year.
Cal State Long Beach, along with the City of Long Beach, has created many efforts to help reduce plastic waste.
CSULB now offers green to go boxes at their three residential dining halls; students are able to take their food on the go without having to pollute the Earth with pesky styrofoam boxes. Once students are done with the box they can return it to any campus dining hall where it will be washed and reused. All across campus, you’ll also be able to find water refill stations to reduce the use of plastic bottles; along with selling reusable bags at the bookstore.
The City of Long Beach has installed 12,000 trash-capturing devices in storm drains that flow to the Los Angeles River and the Long Beach Coastline; preventing tons of trash from ending up on the city’s beaches and ocean. Long Beach has also banned the use of Styrofoam packaging for restaurants and food providers. The city also has waste reduction projects such as Southeast Resource Recovery Facility, Construction and Demolition Recycling Program, Litter Abatement and Recycled Market Development Zone.
How you can help:
🌎 Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
🌎 Opt out of using plastic straws when going to restaurants
🌎 Invest in a reusable water bottle
🌎 Take your own reusable bag to the grocery store
🌎 Take part in a beach clean up