Volunteer divers collect thousands of tons of rubbish every year from the oceans. Marine Debris is literally everywhere in the seas, and can be broken into two broad groups; bottom debris and floating debris. Bottom debris usually doesn’t travel far, and often is something which has been cast from a boat or near shore location, and in addition to being a potential hazard for marine life; it also often kills corals through breaking or smothering. Floating or near-surface debris are those which don’t really sink, and can travel thousands of miles through the ocean before eventually ending up on a beach or reef.
Floating debris is one of the major problems facing all of the planets marine ecosystems and food chains today. The majority of the rubbish is made up of plastic and Styrofoam, both of which will not biodegrade, but remains in the environment forever. These items are easily transported, and in the sea are slowly broken into smaller and smaller pieces until they either sink or end up being eaten by some animal. While these small pieces of plastic and foam float around the ocean they gather other toxins which can cause further harm to the animals that eat them.
Once these products and chemicals enter the food chain, they accumulate in the fat and muscle cells of animals, and are concentrated in the top predators. Since humans are the top predator for the ecosystem, much of this eventually finds its way back into our bodies as well.
It doesn’t matter in what country or where you live, some percentage of the waste you throw away will end up in the sea. This is why it is vital that we reduce the amount of plastic and Styrofoam products which we use. One of the easiest ways to do this is through reducing the waste in take-away food. Many alternatives are available to using plastic bags and foam boxes that are not only more convenient, but also better for you. Recent studies have shown that the styrene in foam containers is easily leached into hot foods and liquids, and in the human body, greatly increases the risk of many types of cancer and disease. Some of thesehealth effects were recently reported in Thai newssites to help address the prevalence of these products in popular Thai culture.
So when you are making your food choices think about your health and that of the environment, and say no to plastic bags and foam boxes. If you travel to our dive school on Koh Tao, please be aware that we do not allow either foam boxes or plastic bags in our office or boats, if you bring them you will have to pay a donation to our sea turtle head starting program.