Beach pollution is an often overlooked issue, but it’s one that should concern everyone. Scientists have found that all types of beach pollution, from microplastics to algae, are quickly eroding the quality of beloved beaches across the world. More importantly, this pollution can affect the health of humans and marine life alike. From landlocked towns to coastal cities, we all need to work together to preserve our beaches.
Defining beach pollution: Learn what we’re up against
Any harmful substance that deteriorates the quality of ocean water or sand meets the definition of beach pollution. Beach pollution is caused by various factors, ranging from left-behind garbage to massive oil spills. This pollution can contaminate the water and sand, making it unsafe for humans and wildlife.
To defeat beach pollution, it’s essential to know what we’re up against. Litter and garbage, along with nutrient toxicity, are two forms of pollution that everyday people have a hand in introducing to our waters.
Litter and garbage in our oceans
When we think of litter and garbage, the first thing that comes to mind might be empty bottles or napkins from a family picnic. While such small instances of litter may seem insignificant, the consequences can add up quickly.
According to the Ocean Conservancy, every year, about 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean. That’s the estimated equivalent of dumping a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute for an entire year.
Littering that causes beach pollution doesn’t just occur in coastal towns. When middle-of-the-country towns fail to dispose of waste properly, that trash can be washed into storm drains, which carry it to rivers, which eventually end up leading to the ocean.
Nutrient pollution: How much is too much?
Have you ever heard of nutrient pollution? It sounds somewhat contradictory. After all, if nutrients are beneficial, how could they possibly be considered pollution?
Excessive nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorus, in our waterways can have a detrimental influence on the environment and human health, even though they are naturally present components of the ecosystem.
One cause of nutrient pollution is the widespread use of chemical fertilizers or animal-manure products used in industrial farming. These products are essential for providing healthy crops year-round, but they come at a price. The ultra-high nutritional levels can’t be absorbed in the ground, so the particles are washed away by rainfall. Following the same water pathways as trash, the abundant nutrients end up in the ocean, where they can cause harmful algae blooms that can kill fish, wildlife, and dogs, and make people very sick.
Many household products, such as dish soaps and detergents, can also cause nutrient pollution if they contain phosphate which bolsters nutrient pollution.
Beach pollution hurts humans and animals
Beach pollution can have a severe impact on both human and animal health.
For example, contaminated water can cause various illnesses in humans, including stomach aches, skin irritations, and respiratory problems, meaning that polluted ocean waters can close locally loved beaches and cause health issues for people living in coastal communities. In extreme cases, polluted water can lead to death.
Furthermore, every form of beach pollution negatively impacts fish and marine life. Fish that come into contact with toxic substances often suffer from deformities, reproductive problems, and even death. Animals most often experience complications from waste when they mistake it for food. Eating litter or other foreign waste can cause them to choke or become poisoned. Bringing it back to human health, when these pollutants enter the food chain, they can work their way up to humans who enjoy eating seafood.
Ready to Take Action Against Beach Pollution?
The good news is that there are plenty of ways for all people to get involved and mitigate beach pollution across the world. Here are three ways you can help fight against beach pollution.
1. Axe single-use plastics from your life
One way to reduce your impact on beach pollution is to avoid using single-use plastics whenever possible. Single-use plastics feel inevitable these days. From straws and utensils to the packaging of essential home items, plastic seems to be everywhere. A few alternatives to single-use plastics include:
Refillable water bottles (preferably made from glass or metal)
Bamboo cotton balls
Bringing your containers when ordering take-out
2. Recycle properly: If you can’t lose it; reuse it
According to experts, only 9% of the plastic in the world is correctly recycled. Since we most likely can’t eliminate every form of plastic from our lives, it’s essential that we recycle everything properly. Proper recycling practices can reduce the number of new plastics that need to be created. In addition to lowering the amount of new litter in the ocean, limiting plastic production keeps waters from being contaminated with chemicals.
3. Organize With Your Community
You don’t have to wait for your next vacation to protect the beach. No matter where you live, you can take action against beach pollution. For example, something as simple as meeting at a local park on the weekend to pick up trash is a great way to get started.
For people interested in taking the next step, getting involved with the local government can help influence systematic changes. Collaborating with local officials for improved city-wide recycling practices in just one town could impact oceans globally.
Together, we can limit beach pollution
The future of beaches and the health of people and animals depend on us all taking responsibility for reducing beach pollution. As a community, we can do this together by limiting littering, recycling more, and organizing to remove trash from our local areas. A cleaner environment means healthier living conditions for humans and animals alike. What are you doing today to help eliminate beach pollution?
Kevin Kling is a real estate agent and life-long Daytona Beach local, making it a top priority for him to preserve the beauty of his hometown beaches.