Changing oceans: tackling waste

Tackling Waste in Oceans
Image credit: Wexor Tmg - Unsplash

Oceans today are very different from what they used to be 10 years ago. Scuba divers now find either dead fish with plastic or just plastic in the now darker oceans. Oceans have become a dumping ground rather than the pristine and serene attractions that they are supposed to be. All this can be attributed to littering and industrial waste. 

Oceans today are filled with plastic waste and all sorts of rubbish. Thus, they are not as clear as they used to be. More often than not, one can find more rubbish than sea creatures. Alongside this, many companies dispose of chemical waste into oceans. This has caused the color of the water to become even darker. Thus, many seas worldwide are now a much darker navy blue rather than their original colors of light or royal blue. 

Beyond just the discoloration above, dumping waste in oceans has had detrimental impacts on marine life. In the case of littering, many animals end up mistaking plastic waste or other litter as food and end up choking on it. This affects animals beyond just marine life. For instance, many birds such as seagulls end up getting entangled. In most of these scenarios, the animals end up suffocating themselves. This is extremely unfortunate as they have to face such dire consequences due to our poor actions.

This situation can indeed be reversed easily if humans simply stop throwing garbage into the oceans. This would in fact eliminate future plastic or litter related deaths for marine life and solve one of the waste related issues oceans are dealing with. By treating the oceans better, we would be able to achieve a better life for marine life.

Impact of Ocean Waste

However, problems for the oceans do not end here. Many corporations worldwide end up disposing of their factory waste into oceans. This waste is often chemical or biomedical in nature. Chemical and biomedical waste cause ocean water to become toxic and can kill certain marine animals. It also causes a lot of damage to coral reefs and makes respiration underwater difficult. Thus, this is another way in which marine life suffers due to mankind’s actions.

In fact, this eventually has a negative impact on humans as well. This is through the food chain. When a marine creature such as a fish is poisoned due to chemicals, it remains in its digestive system. It is eventually passed on along the food chain in increasing quantities as one larger fish consumes the smaller ones. Eventually when this large fish is caught for human consumption, the high level of contamination remains. This then has to be endured by the end consumer, humans. 

Secondly, the constant chemical and biomedical contamination of seawater makes desalination more difficult. This is because the water now has to go through multiple extra rounds of detoxification to make it potable. This strains global water supply and makes everyday life even more difficult.  Even then, it is quite unlikely to eliminate all the toxic chemicals. Hence, there is now a health risk for mankind as well. Thus, littering in the oceans has a direct impact on marine life and an indirect one on mankind. 

How can we tackle ocean waste?

However, while the above does indeed help the oceans, it does not address the main underlying problem which is waste management. If one cannot dispose of waste in the oceans, other more sustainable methods must be identified. So what can we do to tackle this issue? One possible method is Reduce, Reuse and Recycle or the 3Rs for short.

1. Reduce

By reducing the amount of waste generated in the first place, it would be easier to dispose of it. This can be done in the following ways. Firstly, one should only purchase what they would use and in the correct quantity as well. Over purchase only leads to more waste which makes disposal harder. Secondly, within companies, perhaps organizational practices or production techniques could be modified such that there are less waste products generated at the end.

2. Reuse

However, just reducing waste is not enough. Even a lesser amount of waste still needs to be disposed of. This is where the next ‘R’ comes in - Reuse. By reusing more of the items purchased, less trash will be generated at home. For instance, research has shown that aluminum foil can be thoroughly cleaned and reused many times before disposal. Alongside this, companies may also figure out a way to perhaps reuse some of their raw materials or machinery such that waste can is reduced. 

3. Recycle

Lastly, one can recycle. By converting the waste products again into viable raw materials, the production process can be further optimized. Alongside this, these waste products may also be converted into other products that may have different uses. These new products can then be used either in different ways at home or to support a different production stage when producing goods. For instance, at home, perhaps, Styrofoam cups can be cleaned and reshaped to grow small plants. All this helps to reduce the amount of waste to deal with and encourages sustainable ways of living. 

Real Life Examples

In fact, many firms have been trying to implement such sustainable practices. One such organization is Surfaid.  Surfaid was created with the aim of helping mothers and children in the remote areas of Indonesia, Solomon Islands and Mexico where only surfers tend to go. They provide clean water, sanitation facilities and food for poor families. This is done by repurposing some of the infrastructure around to build a stable water supply in the remote surfing areas. Alongside this, arable land has been repurposed to grow crops to feed families. Thus, abandoned areas and fertile land has been now put to better use without compromising the environment in any way. This is definitely something many companies can learn: efficient use of available resources.

What SimplyGood has done so far to help the environment

SimplyGood is also one of the companies pushing for more environmentally-friendly practices. It has been encouraging plastic-free practices by converting cleaning solutions into light and easy-to-use tabletsTo date, SimplyGood and its customers have saved  at least 15,000 plastic bottles from landfill or from ending up in our oceans. One can now purchase 3, 6 or 9 tablets rather than the corresponding amounts of bottles. These tablets when dissolved in water can produce the same amount of cleaning solution. 

Most importantly, they are 200 times smaller and 300 times lighter than regular cleaning bottles. Thus, SimplyGood’s innovativeness indeed has allowed for the direct reduction of carbon footprint during production and for consumers as well. Also, all the packaging utilizes paper instead of plastic which is much easier to dispose of. The numbers in the infographic above show the impact that SimplyGood’s cleaning tablets have on reducing  ocean waste, and is trying to promote environmentally friendly lifestyles.

While waste management may not seem as easy, it is important to protect the sanctity of our oceans. This can be done very easily by making minor changes at home or at work. The cumulative effect of all this will definitely reduce the amount of total waste and push us to manage it well instead of dumping it in oceans. Perhaps, we can all start by taking one small step this Ocean’s Day.