Prevention rather than cure. If we can’t stop the amount of litter entering our oceans, we can at least try and reduce it. Here we will look at ways which you can do just that from the comfort of your own home. Recycling and reusing items is one of the easiest ways you can help the ocean without leaving your own home. Even if you are completely landlocked your actions can still make a difference.
Some ocean friendly choices are:
- Use bags for life instead of normal plastic bags:
A plastic bag can take between 150 years to over 1,000 years before it degrades. However it doesn’t biodegrade, it’s broken down by light into tiny little fragments of plastic, which are toxic – these are known as microplastics. In relation to the ocean, an estimated 1,o00,000 birds, 100,000 turtles, and countless other sea organisms die each year from ingesting plastic, according to Greenpeace. They easily mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and other edible sea creatures. Having a reusable carrier bag would prevent even more plastic entering our oceans.
Recycling 14 trees worth of paper reduces air pollutants by 165,142 tons. I know we’re discussing marine pollution, however ocean acidification is caused by the uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere and recycling could potentially slow the rate of coral bleaching and save calcified organisms.
The dumping of used plastic destroys sea life at an estimated 1,000,000 sea creatures per year! Glass and plastic take the longest to degrade, but are completely recyclable, which is why it’s important we recycle them. It’s believed that 60%-70% of rubbish we put in our bins could have been recycled instead. Recycling doesn’t just reduce the amount of waste entering the ocean, it also reducing the amount of power we use. Theoretically, we could hit two birds with one stone. When we produce aluminum products from virgin metal it consumes close to 100 times the power required to recycle aluminum. In the UK an estimated 70% of our energy comes from non-renewable energy sources, if we use less energy we will lower the amount of air pollution, which I’ve already mentioned has horrific effects for our oceans.
- Food scraps to compost:
In 2009 it was found that an estimated 25% of food bought by households was thrown away. Food waste contains Nitrogen and Phosphorous which when in water can lead to eutrophication and algae blooms.
By collecting your food waste and using it to produce compost you are reducing your rubbish and making compost which can be used instead of artificial fertilizers.
Some easy steps for setting up a home compost:
- A home compost bin should be at least 1 metre cubed, with a lid to prevent rain entering. Some local councils sell them at reduced rates.
- Ideally site your compost bin in a reasonably sunny site on bare soil.
- Bottomless bins are better as the allow earthworms to enter and speed up the process.
- Lot’s of food waste can be used to make compost, except: meat/fish products, dairy products, grease/oil or bones.
- The smaller your scraps are cut the quicker then can decompose.
- You can compost: peelings, egg shells, hair, small amounts of paper/softcard, plants, and tea/coffee particles.
- Keep filling it!
- Composting can take weeks or months depending on how much air and moisture are present,
- The compost is ready to use when it is crumbly in appearance and has a slightly earthy smell.
- Spread away!
Compost is great for the environment and great for you, it’s free to make and replaces somewhat expensive fertilizer and shop bought compost.
- Purchase items with minimum packaging:
When you go into a supermarket, it’s likely you will see more packaging that you will food. I know I do! Apple surrounded in styrofoam holders swarming with plastic wrapping, bread suffocating in plastic bags. To reduce your waste and plastic usage try and purchase items which come with less packaging, or at least recyclable packaging. Most plastic can be recycled but make sure to read the package, or look for the recyclable symbol. Styrofoam isn’t recyclable and can take over 500 years before usually begins to break down. In the ocean styrofoam is often mistake for food and eaten; when inside the organism it blocks the digestive tract and the organism will usually starve and thus die.
On a positive note, we are making a difference – we are increasing the amout of power we receive from renewable sources; we are also reducing the amount of plastic we use. We’re moving forwards to a brighter future – one with a healthier ocean.
I hope these tips have given you a few ideas to help you lead a greener life, and to know that no matter how far away from the coast you are, you matter to it.