Properly dispose of plastic items while at the beach

By / Letters to the Editor / Wednesday, 14 June 2017 04:00

Dear Editor,
Living on the eastern coast of North Carolina is a blessing both in climate and in the beauty of the beaches. How many times have residents and vacationers enjoyed the quiet walks on the beach or frolicking in the ocean with family or friends. Other times we enjoy either fishing by a pier, at the beach or off a boat of some kind. Many residents depend on tourism for their livelihood. Add to that the enjoyment of fresh fish prepared in Carolina restaurants and we begin to realize how important our beaches and oceans are to our lives both economically and personally.
Yet walk the beaches and see the trash left. Worst of all is the damage both seen and unseen from the plastic we discard everywhere. Plastic has revolutionized our world yet is condemning our oceans and marine life. How often do we see plastic bags or bottles floating in the ocean. Six pack drink holders are further examples of ocean pollution. Is it we don’t care or we just do not know the damage being done? Probably both but I am convinced the majority of ocean visitors and residents would take better care of our ocean environment if they knew the damage being done. People just simply say it is one or two bottles, or plastic bags, what damage could it do?
The fact is when you combine all our residents or visitors that do not discard plastic properly we have a major problem. The facts are:
• We recover only 5% of the of the plastic we produce
• The average American discards about 185 lbs of plastic annually
• According to Brita, Americans throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles each year.
• Annually 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide.
• 50% of the plastic we use is thrown away after 1 use
• Plastic accounts of 10% of the waste produced each year
• It takes over 500 years for plastic bags  to degrade, plastic bottles from 70 to 450 years. Compare against a tin can 50 years.  
• 80 % of the ocean plastic comes from land
With all that said, how bad is the contamination in the ocean.? The EPA estimates that 46% of plastics float and drift for years before being concentrated in the ocean gyres. (A gyre in oceanography is any large system of circulating ocean currents, particularly those involved with large wind movements.) Further plastic constitutes 90 % of the trash floating in the ocean. What effect does it have on marine life?
• 44 % of all seabird species, 22 % of Cetaceans (whale, dolphin, or porpoise), all sea turtles and an ever growing number of fish have been found with plastic in or around their bodies. I have seen pictures of turtles wrapped up in those 6 pack drink holders .
• Casualties to marine life are estimated at 100,000 marine mammals and 1 million sea birds
In summary, though a boon to our civilization, Plastic has become a danger to our Oceans, Marine Life and the Environment. Yet by proper disposal we can cut back on the dangers to our beaches. Please remember to properly dispose of plastic bottles, bags or can holders while at the beach.
If you are a resident consider contacting you town and offer to join their beach patrol to help gather trash left by our thoughtless brethren. Another idea would gather your neighbors and volunteer to adopt a part of the beach, again done through the towns.
Ours ability and that of our children, to enjoy the benefits of the beach and the oceans depends on each of us being good stewards of our beaches and the waters that surround it. Join me in making a difference!!!
Bill Moore
Kure Beach

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Carolina Beach North Carolina

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