Cleaning the Coastlines

Amid the ongoing problem of plastic pollution and our oceans, eco-activist JJ Yosh explains what it was like to experience and solve this issue on a microscale.


cleaning
Photo by JJ Yosh and Shandrew PR

I was fortunate enough to be invited by SodaStream USA to serve in their initiative to reduce the impact of plastic pollution on Honduras’ coastal communities, and to help thousands of people in the process.

Honduras’ plastic pollution has a massive effect on the country’s environment. There’s no easy access to recycling centers, or even controlled waste management, so as plastic is produced, consumed, and discarded, waste collectively builds along mountain ranges, roadsides, and coastlines, eventually creating massive islands of plastics on the open ocean that are negatively affecting both human and wildlife populations.

debris
Photo by JJ Yosh and Shandrew PR



A large part of this pollution consists of practically invisible pieces of plastic known as “microplastics.” (We were actually able to see the breakdown of plastics into microplastic particles as we began our first day of cleanup.) These plastics raise concerns for living organisms across oceanic ecosystems; we may not realize it, but we eat and consume these plastics as well. Aquatic species at the bottom of the food chain (primarily plankton and shrimp) ingest microplastics. Consequently, predatory fish are contaminated by microplastics when feeding off prey. Humans consume the larger organisms in this chain, so by simply eating seafood and drinking water, we’re directly affected by microplastics. Removing microplastics from drinking water requires reverse osmosis, something impractical and out of the reach of the average person, especially in countries like Honduras.

In addition, we should all be aware that each year, 8 million metric tons of plastic pollute our oceans. This converts to five trash bags for every foot of coastline around the world, compounding annually. Nearly 2 million single-use plastic bags are distributed worldwide every 60 seconds. One million plastic bottles are bought every minute. This is what you and I live with. This isn’t just a problem in a faraway land, but one that impacts us all.



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