ProjectAware is a partner project to the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), whose intention is to address to protect the ocean and marine species through public education, training, data collection, and direct action. They are primarily focused on marine protection and decreasing pollution. Through their Dive Against Debris project, they call divers to collect trash with every dive - reducing pollution directly and compiling important data on the specifics of this pollution.
I am not one week into my GoECO specialty program, and have been learning from marine biologist, Susanna Phipps, about the human impacts on our local ecosystem here on Utila (overfishing, pollution practices and impacts, sewage systems and their impacts on populations and coral). It has been eye opening, daunting and inspiring all at the same time. Suzy lead our dive shop in this debris collection.
Still with ear infection, I was unable to dive, but I manned the boat, collected mesh bags of trash and weighed them as our divers collected. After about 45 minutes of diving, out team had to stop as our boat was completely full. Our boat alone collected 1015 lbs. of trash (cans, plastic, construction materials, clothes, a whole blender), and we barely made a dent in what still remains. We estimated that 3750 lbs of trash was collected between all the shops.
The trash is obviously an immediate problem, but underlying it, is the real problem — how did it get there in the first place. 70% of the trash in our oceans comes from land. In the Cays, which is where we did our collections, locals will throw their trash out of windows and into the bay, they use the oceans as a landfill, so it is clear to see how trash makes it to sea there, but even in the States, where trash is not disposed of in this way, we still have a big problem. If trash is thrown away properly, there is still runoff into the oceans from trash cans, sewers, or landfill into rivers, streams, or right into the sea. Even if you recycle, the same is true. Not everyone knows this, and I certainly didn’t until it stopped, but for decades, the U.S. would send the majority of our recycling materials (unsorted) to China, but in 2018, China attempting to shift it’s impact on global pollution, stopped accepting recycling from the States. Without an infrastructure to support the mass of recycling piling up, most recycled materials are burned or put into landfills like any other piece of trash- leaving more a risk of oceans getting trash, and micro plastics (tiny bits of plastics created for plastic making, or produced as plastic begins to breakdown). We have to start doing something. Not just individuals but bigger corporations as well. Where does your trash go after you throw something away? Each plastic item can take anywhere from 450 - 1000 years to break down (and even still remains as micro plastics that still pose risk to sea life). Start to think about how much trash you produce in a lifetime. Is there a way you can reduce your impact? How can we work toward a zero waste life? Refuse to make trash. Refuse to purchase or use plastic products - stop the demand to produce plastic in the first place. It won’t take a few people doing this perfectly, the problem demands that everyone do this imperfectly to try and stop the pressure we our putting on this world.
There are so many resources out there if you want to do more and learn more. #zerowaste #plasticfree Going Zero Waste is one I have been using for tips, resources, support, etc. It is a good place to start learning about what you can do differently.