Trash, especially plastics, can be found across the world’s oceans because of its buoyancy and resilience (Erikson et al.). Because the plastic releases toxins into the environment, researchers have stressed that if they are found in the ocean, they should be treated as hazardous waste. The accumulation of plastic pollution can also be found in bays, gulfs, and seas that are heavily populated along their watersheds and coasts. The impact that plastic pollution has had on ocean animals and plants including zooplankton, marine reptiles, and seabirds through entanglement and ingestion has been well-documented. The continuation of floating plastics within the world’s oceans illustrates the urgency of the need to monitor its impacts and to create ways to decrease the number of plastics and their global dispersion. According to Erikson et al., there is a lack of data regarding estimates of the amount and weight of floating plastics, especially in the Southern Hemisphere, illustrating the need for further studies to be performed immediately in order to address the complete severity of the situation.
Marine pollution threatens both marine life and human life. Irresponsible human activity leads to huge deposits of trash in oceans which consequently creates an in an imbalance in the oceanic ecosystem (Baumgartner, Iver, Duedall & Kester, 13). The causes of effects of trash in oceans correlate to measures to protect the marine environment from pollution.
Causes of Trash in the Ocean
Ocean dumping occurs naturally or as a result of irresponsible trash management which contributes to increased trash deposits in oceans. The materials dumped in oceans include garbage and other forms of manufacturing waste material from factories, ocean tankers, and sewage waste. Such pollutants contain hazardous chemical components like mercury and radioactive material that kills marine life after consumption. (Kumpf, 29) points out that channeling of sewer waste into oceans spreads organisms that inhibit the natural growth of marine life on contaminated areas.
Almost 70% of trash in oceans is a result of storm run-offs, which entails trash flowing into the marine environment by floating on rivers draining to the ocean (Baumann, 38). Through this kind of pollution, rivers collect harmful pollutant such as plastics, inorganic fertilizers, and pesticides during floods and drain them into oceans and seas (Kumpf, 17) Inorganic fertilizers and pesticides are particularly harmful to marine life because they contain harmful chemicals that disrupt ocean ecosystems and lead to the creation of dead zones in the water.
Oil spills from tankers transporting oil and offshore drill rigs are a major cause of trash and ocean pollution because the metallic debris from drills and accidental oil spills poses a threat to marine life (Duquette et.al, 63) There have been incidents of oils spillage such as the Deepwater Horizon and Atlantic Express that lead to huge amounts of loss of marine life. Oil spillage affects both the environment and the economy due to the loss of oil and the costly ocean clean-up and restoration efforts (Nellemann, Hain & Alder, 43). Seabirds are most affected by oil spills because their wings get covered by the slick oil hindering their ability to fly and thus leading to death. Seabird populations exposed to oil spillage have been observed to drastically reduce which also decreases marine mammal populations due to food chain disruption.
Human activity on the beach also contributes to littering and trash build up on the ocean front. The litter is then carried into the ocean by waves, where some of it floats and the rest is deposited on the ocean floor affecting the coral reef. Activity such as beach parties has adverse effects in instances where people don’t collect trash from the beach and it leads to the accumulation of non-degradable plastics (Parker & Menzel, 31). The non-degradable trash chokes fish when consumed and also entangles some of the marine mammals leading to slow and painful deaths. Examples of such plastic trash include single-use plastics such as party cups, straws, plastic cigarette butts and films of plastic food wrappers.
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