As the Harley’s rumble out of town, the last signs of summer have faded and the beach is officially yours again. These sweet months of relative silence that juxtapose the craziness that is summer on the Grand Strand are here. Banner planes, over-size beach tents, parasails, and traffic jams head back into their much needed hibernation.
In 2012 the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber estimated that 15 million people visited the area. That number of visitors has a profound impact on the area in many ways. Most concerning to you in the middle of it all is how your usual trip to Costco or Lowe’s is going to take five-times as long.
The influx is no doubt needed economically and the beauty of the ocean and beaches is what drives people here. Unfortunately, the very thing that draws people to the Grand Strand may feel the impact of millions of visitors more than we know because of one simple fact.
More people, more trash.
More trash on land means more trash in the ocean and on the beach.
That Wally-World plastic bag being blown down the road will eventually find it’s way down a storm drain, which leads to; you guessed it, the ocean. A plastic bottle lying on the road will do the same.
How many bottle caps, cigarette butts, bottles and cans do you think get left behind in the sand after a long day of building sand castles and playing Bocce Ball. Eventually the tide will wash them out to sea as well. Combine the two and you have a significant impact being mad along the Grand Strand alone.
Now try to imagine all the trash that collects on beaches worldwide. Fortunately, the International Coastal Cleanup conducted by the Ocean Conservancy gives us an idea how much trash is out there. Over 12 million pounds was collected worldwide in the 2013 Cleanup. Wanna take a guess at the top five?
- Cigarette Butts
- Food Wrappers
- Plastic Bottles
- Plastic Cap
Plastic, plastic, and more plastic. What happens when all that plastic doesn’t get properly disposed of and is left floating in the ocean?
Aside from the unpleasing aesthetics, more trash (especially plastics) in the ocean causes damage to marine habitats, entangles marine life, and can be mistaken as food. The latter may be the most alarming.
According to the LA Times, scientists set sail this summer expecting to find millions of tons of trash floating in the worlds oceans. They were surprised to find 40,000 tons.
This begs the question, where did it all go?
Did it sink? Wash ashore? Get mistaken for food? Probably a combination of all three.
Plastic will eventually break down through photodegradation into small enough pieces for wildlife to eat. These plastics can contain numerous toxins. Once the toxins are eaten by wildlife there is the possibility that the same toxins will enter the food chain. The effects on humans and wildlife are unknown.
What can you do about it?
Making a dent in the millions of pounds of marine pollution seems impossible. You probably recycle and make sure to take some trash off the beach with you when you leave.
There is one more thing you can do right now to make a difference. It’s so simple you can do it on your next grocery trip. Skip picking up that heavy case of water bottles off the shelf…
Buy a reusable water bottle instead.
But you say you don’t like tap water? Get a water filter and fill up your bottle. In addition to all the positive environmental factors it will pay for itself after a couple of months.
Besides, you don’t really know where that bottled water comes from anyway.
So help to eliminate the possibility that your share of the 50 billion plastic water bottles that get used in the United States every year will end up in the ocean and maybe the food chain.