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Published On: Fri, Mar 9th, 2018

The Harmful Effects of Collected Beach Trash

As much as trash on land causes great harm, beach trash and marine debris also put many animals and the environment at risk.

photo/ H. Hach

What is Marine Debris?

Any sort of trash (bottles, aluminum cans, plastic bags, woods, metals, etc.) that gets into the ocean is called “marine debris”. They could be waste coming from landfills that’s blown into the nearby streams and rivers eventually reaching the sea. There are also boats which intentionally or accidentally dump trash off board. Plus, we have the beachgoers who tend to lose their belongings in the waters.

It might not sound too serious, but too much beach trash actually affects the environment, the socioeconomic activities, and human health.

Environmental Impacts

Because of the overwhelming presence of trash in the ocean, marine animals like seabirds and sea turtles can no longer properly recognize what is food and what is garbage. Plastic bags and balloons are the most common objects that turtles and seabirds mistakenly ingest which could bring them great hazard. Find out more about this deadly truth here. The plastic that sits in their stomachs can eventually lead to their death. Some animals also ingest sharp objects, piercing their guts. Consuming these plastic materials not only causes internal damage. It can also cause entanglement hazard when stuck around the animals’ necks. More than 136 species of oceanic animals were found entangled in these debris.

Socioeconomic Impacts

Beach tourism is at stake if this garbage issue persists. Also, the fishing industry and the people who depend on oceanic ecosystems as their source of livelihood will suffer the consequences. Tourists’ levels of enjoyment will plunge if too much trash continues to lie around. The economy of the localities will then be gravely at risk. Millions of dollars in revenue is in jeopardy if the marine debris keeps washing ashore.

Human Health Impacts

After sun exposure, plastic materials which enter the ocean will keep on breaking into smaller particles, known as micro-plastics. These do not decompose, and large quantities of plastic get spilled off into the ocean. Scientists are alarmed by how microplastics absorb, concentrate, and send toxic compounds to organisms which ingest them. Studies show that plastics absorb contaminants more easily than natural sediments like sand and rocks. These organic pollutants can accumulate and transmit from one species to another through the food chain. Certain behavioral, reproductive, developmental, endocrine, neurologic, and immunologic health hazards among humans are associated with this toxicity. Humans who eat toxic goods from the bottom of the food chain can also consume large amounts of persistent organic pollutants which bring tremendous health risks.

Countries spend millions every year for beach cleanup projects. However, this might not be the quickest route. The problem will only keep coming back if the garbage collection system on land is not optimized and if the ordinary citizens remain undependable in taking part in this cause. You can start with the little things. Start with yourself and with your family. Spread awareness in your own little way to bring more responsible people together in minimizing this imminent danger.

Author: Sumeet Manhas

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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