The Monterey Bay, situated on California’s central coast, is home to a plethora of marine animals, tourism and leisure activities. With a global demand for production of plastics, a great quantity of the earth is thriving with pollution. Ranging from our landfills, streams, rivers, and oceans, the remnants of plastics have been found anywhere human life prevails. This debris produced by people worldwide has imploded great amounts of damage to marine life and potential human health risks. Utilizing the expertise of Kimberle Herring, Public Education, and Outreach Coordinator at the Monterey Regional Waste Management District, along with many environmentally-focused organizations, the causation behind pollution is addressed along with the destination of our waste. When examining the main factors of marine endangerment, evidence of death by consumption of plastic pellets becomes increasingly notable especially in sea animals such as birds, who ingest this waste by mistake and cause hindrances in their digestive systems (Rosevelt, Huertos, Garza, C., & Nevins, H.M. (2013).
Consequences that emerge from marine species consuming plastic particles include potential human health risks, marine endangerment, and ecological decay. In order to avoid further impediments to the ecosystem’s well-being, citizens must support laws in favor of oceanic conservation and provide public participation by cleaning beaches, refraining from plastics, and reducing their waste.
Keywords: waste, pollution, plastics, marine, Monterey, health
With the exponential increase in the world’s plastic production, exposure to toxic substances has become increasingly common among seafood consumers, animals, and ecosystems, resulting in various illnesses and marine animal endangerment. Debris such as plastic microbeads and microfibers continuously plague marine life in the oceans of Monterey County and are the main cause of death in most of these marine organisms, including birds. Hindrances to marine environments are shown to have increased with the production of plastics, which in turn result in wildlife fatalities. From seafood to some effects on atmospheric air, these pollutants have been increasingly present both on ocean and land, and outnumber the amount of most marine species on the planet. Along with plastic bags and other consumer plastics, an immense amount of debris from around the globe gathers in tremendous amounts in different areas after strong ocean currents emerge.
Consequently, these large patches of debris remain in place and collect new garbage that enters areas from different parts of the world. With the abundance of tourism, debris tends to wash ashore and take part in ecological damage as well as pose as potential health risks. Data gathered by coastal managers suggests necessary information that effectively concludes the origin, quantity, and their long-term impacts on the oceanic life. The conjoined efforts of many citizens, scientists, and environmentalists to impede the effects of pollution are considered rather futile as laws placed in the Monterey County do not prevent pollution from occurring at a massive rate. The inadequacy of these laws, when expected to properly cope with the increasing issue of marine pollution, is a recurring problem with solutions towards this prevalent epidemic. Despite the emergence of these laws, there remains a study rise in pollution by chemical and plastic waste in the oceans and damage to the ecological system.
The increased rate of global dependency on disposable products has caused an abundance of trash that is discarded away from the view of most citizens. The average American generates four to five pounds of trash daily (Brain, 2008). Despite seemingly minuscule, this number contributes to a majority of the yearly global trash production of 220 million tons (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, n.d.). The United States alone generates over 30% of the planet’s trash pollution (Bradford, Broude, & Truelove, 2018). When such an abundance of waste is produced in the fastest rate recorded in years, where does it all go? Trash is typically meant to be disposed of in landfills, resource recovery facilities or recycling centers. However, more often than not, this waste consistently finds its way into our oceans, lakes, and streams-leading to undesirable environmental consequences. Within a world dominated by the commercial production of waste, it is almost inevitable to avoid pollution.
A self-administered interview with Kimberle Herring, Public Education and Outreach Coordinator at the Monterey Regional Waste Management District, demonstrated that as of 2017 and 2018, out of 175,395 tons of trash were produced, the City of Salinas landfilled 131,959 tons(Appendix A). The majority of the trash generated in the city of Salinas is situated in landfills, specifically that of the Johnson Canyon Landfill in Gonzales. The daily load of waste sent into these facilities provides an overwhelming amount of trash for management. The Johnson Canyon Landfill receives waste from places such as unincorporated areas of the Monterey County within the Salinas Valley Region (Appendix A). The conjoined waste of each region gathered around 298,757 tons of waste and 212,441 tons of this trash was sent to the landfill. With this abundance of waste, 27% of this trash is either not properly managed or directed away from the landfill (Appendix A).
Despite the advantage that landfills pose by allowing a location for non-organic materials, Kimberle Herring states that they may also pose as an impending danger. Herring explains that landfills are a hotspot for methane gas (Appendix A), a gas known for its contribution to global climate change. Landfills have a potential risk of providing the environment with irreversible damaging effects, which proves that they should be a last resort for disposing of waste, as Herring (Appendix A)stated.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration addresses the overwhelmingly massive island of garbage that circulates the Pacific Ocean and has been continuing to grow over the years. This gyre of human waste is composed of concentrations of plastics and its constituents gathered from across the globe. Along with bags and other consumer plastics, strong ocean currents pull the remnants of waste that were washed ashore in different parts of the world. Consequently, these large patches of debris remain in place and collect new garbage every time ocean currents flow, which in turn hinders the environments of marine mammals. When encountered with marine debris in this region, organisms may confuse these substances for food and consume them, resulting in choking, starvation, and other impairments (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2018).
Factors such as tourism, recreation, and debris tend to wash ashore and take part in ecological damage as well as pose as potential health risks. Data gathered by coastal managers suggests necessary information that effectively concludes the origin, quantity, and their long-term impacts on the oceanic life. With an estimated amount of 5.25 trillion plastic particles weighing some 269,000 tons (Seltenrich, 2015) Since marine animals, such as tuna, typically consume smaller objects, they often end up digesting harmful pollutants stemming from human commercial consumption. Plastic debris emerges in marine animals when they mistakenly digest these particles instead has on human health by imposing particles of plastics, as well as any other harmful constituents, into the diets of many unsuspecting citizens. With the exponential increase in the world’s plastic production, human exposure to harmful toxic substances has become common among seafood consumers, resulting in various illnesses and marine animal endangerment. When consuming plastics, the host’s digestive system is disrupted and loss of appetite occurs, resulting in stomach illness and in some cases, death (Abraham, K., Coggin, B., & Magdalena, M. (2015, September 03).
The preeminence of plastics on the ocean floor usually by popular products consumed by citizens on a daily basis. Debris such as plastic microbeads and microfibers continuously plague marine life in the oceans of Monterey County and are the main cause of death in these animals. In efforts to learn how to avoid common practices that lead to pollution, Sarah-Mae Nelson, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s conservation interpreter, displays her journey to achieve a plastic-free lifestyle. Nelson follows more conscious footsteps such as avoiding the use synthetic fibers, plastic packaging, and any disposable/single-use items (Abraham, K., Coggin, B., & Magdalena, M. (2015, September 03). Along with Nelson’s efforts, brand such as LUSH Cosmetics?„, Johnson & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, L’Oreal and The Body Shop have entered the realm of eco-friendly lifestyle by imposing organic ingredients as a replacement to plastic microbeads-an emerging problem in ocean pollution(Abraham, K., Coggin, B., & Magdalena, M. (2015, September 03). The changes being adopted by these prominent figures not only ensure the lives of many sea creatures but free the globe of more debris, thus diminishing degrades to the ocean environment. Avoiding hindrances in marine environments is essential for maintaining a balanced food chain cycle.
Boyle dates back to the earliest laws against pollution and verifies the inadequacy of these laws when expected to properly cope with this increasing issue. Despite the emergence of laws such as the Articles of the High Seas Convention, there continued to be a study rise in pollution by chemical and plastic waste in the oceans and damage to the ecological system (Boyle, A. ,1985). Along with these conclusions, Boyle discusses the urgent need for regulatory laws which abide in solving or reducing the issue of marine pollution. Currently in Monterey County, the organization 5 Gyres, is aiding to propose a state bill that would prohibit microplastics in non-prescription, rinse-off personal care products sold in California by 2020.(Abraham, K., Coggin, B., & Magdalena, M. (2015, September 03). This bill, known as AB 888, serves the purpose to reduce the effects of trash in the ocean.
Growing up in Monterey County, I have experienced the rise of marine endangerment and pollution first-hand. Most notably, the trash situated in the shores of the Monterey Bay and surrounding areas. From plastic caps, water bottles, plastic bags, and even shoes, the amount of waste that is consistently being left behind or uncared for is incredibly massive, and there is little action being taken in order to solve this issue. Trash has demonstrated the ability to not only destroy marine environments, but also endanger species. Recently, I went on a beach clean-up with a group of students and encountered a plethora of problems. We collectively gathered around 50 pounds of trash composed of plastics, styrofoam, and other means of packaging in a 30 minute period. Shockingly, the corpses of 6 dead pelicans were spread across the beach and appeared to have no injuries but demonstrated signs of plastic consumption. The effects of human waste are causing marine animals to perish at an alarming rate.
Making sure that we are not disrupting natural ecosystems by limiting human waste pollution in the ocean is essential for maintaining a healthy environment. By eliminating the deleterious habits of citizens, a community as a whole can contribute to change. Estela Gutierrez, Resource Recovery Technician at Salinas Valley Recycles, suggests that every citizen should refrain from using materials that are unnecessary, reduce the amount of waste that is produced, reuse items as much as possible, recycle products, and rot food products to impede waste from going in the ocean (Appendix A). Sarah-Mae Nelson, who is an influential figure in Monterey County, serves as an example for people to heed in order to support the preservation of marine life. Nelson’s eco-friendly lifestyle restricts the use of plastics and single-use items. Supporting brands that limit their packaging and sponsor ocean conservation organizations, such as LUSH Cosmetics, can lead to significant contributions in building a foundation of future businesses of this type. Along with making sure that waste is managed properly, citizens should be actively involved in the passings or propositions of new laws/regulations that ameliorate litter pollution.
When exploring the quantity, origin, and production of waste, finding data on these topics was relatively simple. Finding research on the abundance of litter produced by cities in this region provided was a great way to dictate the whereabouts of most waste. There were numerous amounts of published facts and figure of marine pollution published by renowned organizations such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Deciding on what information to acquire was not difficult as I had prior knowledge of the effects and causes of pollution from living in Monterey County.
Nonetheless, despite an abundance of accessible research, most of the data was redundant, as there were multiple repetitions of facts and discussion points. Local accounts of marine pollution we also easily acquired as the Monterey Community thrives with efforts for environmental well-being. I should have included more examples of the solutions and problems with pollution at a global scale, rather than solely focus on California and the Monterey County. This would have established a connection between the efforts of each community to solve this issue and the progress being made in each region.
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