Written by Lindsey Brand, ESLLC 2015-2016
–What is Ocean Dumping?
Ocean dumping is the practice of dumping trash into the ocean as a disposal practice.
–Where does this trash come from?
A recent study estimates that most of the trash found in the oceans originates from the Chinese coast and other developing countries in Asia. About 10 percent of the plastic created in the world ends up in an ocean.
–What happens to this trash?
Most of the trash deposited into the ocean eventually ends up in large floating masses called “garbage patches”. There are five major garbage patches in the world’s oceans. The largest patch is located 1,000 miles northeast of Hawaii and is called the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”. 3.5 million tons of trash resides in the patch. Over eighty percent of the trash in this patch is plastic, which explains why the patch is only growing, as plastics never truly degrade.
–How does this trash effect marine life?
Larger intact debris can be harmful to marine life by entrapping animals. Six-ring can holders are often used as an example of harmful large debris. Additionally, as plastic breaks down, the small plastic particles can be even more harmful to marine life. Plankton and other small organism ingest these particles, introducing plastic into the food chain. The ingestion of plastic is poisonous, harming marine animals as well as the humans that catch and eat these animals. Trash also chokes natural currents and interferes with the nutrients and sunlight needed to sustain both plant and animal life in the ocean.
–What are the next steps to solving this problem?
Recycling plastics is an easy and effective first step to take at home. Keeping trash off the ground is also important. Improperly discarded trash, even far away from a coast, often enters waterways and can eventually end up in the oceans. On a larger scale, more effective garbage management in communities that do not have the resources to safely deal with trash needs to be implemented in order to stop large amounts of trash from being purposefully dumped in the oceans.