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Trash: The Sickness of the Ocean

Back home, (which for me is Los Angeles), I am an avid surfer. Every weekend I would haul my 6 foot tri-fin surfboard over the hill to Malibu and meet a group of friends to paddle out at our secret spot. I remember the sand between my toes while standing on the beach, checking out the waves. Yeah, I wish I was there right now while I am writing this. But I also remember the empty Cheetos bag sticking up out of the sand. I remember the childs toy floating next to me when I paddled out. I even remember the one time when a sea lion chomped off the end of a styrofoam brick floating four feet from me. In fact, it seems that ever since my pre-adolescent years, when I first learned how to surf at this beach, I have seen trash either in the sand or in the water every day I have paddled out. And my secret spot is not the only place afflicted by this excrement of society. Today, most of the world’s oceans and seas are filled with trash and waste that fills the stomachs of sea life and pollutes countless gallons of seawater every day.

Right now, somewhere in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, floats an “island” of trash and chemicals, estimated to be between the twice the size of the islands of Hawaii to twice the size of Texas. This trash has filled the stomachs of an incalculable, but extremely large, amount of sea life, which one can easily see in excruciating detail through an internet search. Every day birds fly back to their nests on remote islands all around the world, feeding their chicks with bits of plastic bottles and packaging. Once while I was surfing in the British Virgin Islands (near Jamaica) I paddled over to a very small grassy island to rest on its beach. Only when I stepped on to the sand did I see the entire stretch of sand was filled with plastic jugs and fishing lines. The hermit crabs that inhabited the beach had even dug small pathways between the heaps of garbage. It was very sad to see such a beautiful place from far away transform into an ugly mess.

One may think that this absurd amount of trash floating around the earth is in so much excess that any effort to reduce it is futile. And indeed, it nearly is. The only way the current amount of floating trash can be reduced is if the public becomes educated about the true size of the problem. Until then, this mass of debris will not shrink. But we can each help to stop it from growing. It truly is simple. Next time you are at the beach, instead of leaving your trash or throwing it in the water, put it in a recycle bin so it doesn’t end up in a trash island or an animal’s stomach.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andrew Kruger
College: UC Santa Cruz
Major: Marine Biology
Graduation Date: 2016
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