While walking down cement stairs to access a hidden beach in Dubrovnik, all I could see was the disgusting amount of trash that would require a large group of people to clean.
When I arrived at the beach I (unsurprisingly) saw pieces of trash littered among the shore. I would see people lay in the sand, next to a chip bag or swimming as a plastic bag drifted by — everyone acting as if it was meant to be there.
Do we all just not notice it anymore? Do we not care? Do we see it as an inconvenience rather than a warning?
I picked up pieces of trash, while people continued to frolic in the water and sand. I became angry at these people for not doing anything when there was something that could easily be done right then and there: pick up the trash.
While picking plastic wrappers out of the ocean, I could barely tell the difference between a piece of translucent kelp and a piece of clear plastic. How is marine life supposed to know the difference between a piece of plastic and a food source (i.e. a jellyfish or plastic bag)?
While walking around the city I still noticed a large amount of litter that I knew would fall into the storm drains and seep into the ocean. The amount of trash broke my heart.
The documentary, A Plastic Ocean, states that “over 80 percent of ocean plastic leaks from land-based sources. Even if you don’t live near the ocean, chances are your plastic garbage has found its way to the sea.”
Due to not living by the ocean, I’m rarely shown the drastic effects of single-use on the ocean and its inhabitants. On my vacation, I was hit with the reality that our Earth is still in great peril. If you see trash on a beach in California, you are going to find a similar amount across the world too. It’s rare to not find at least one piece of single-use plastic in nature now.
According to a 2010 report by Ocean Conservancy entitled Trash Travels explains, “60 percent of all debris items found in 2009 were ‘disposable,’ including 512,517 cups, plates, forks, knives, and spoons—enough for a picnic for over 100,000 people.”
We need a better waste disposal system. We need a circular economy. We need to face the facts and make the changes necessary to sustain a healthy environment for all life on the planet, including for generations to come.
Raise awareness about the plastic infesting our Earth, pressure your government to enforce policies that protect the environment, and try to limit your single-use plastic intake in your daily life; you’ll truly be making a difference!