We frequent beaches not highly visited by beachgoers. The trash we pick up has been washed ashore. When we first started cleaning Florida’s beautiful beaches as little kids over 20 years ago, it would take months for the marine debris to accumulate, and we would never find balloons back then. But now, with the alarming increase of balloon releases and plastic single-use products, we can clean the beach and there will be another batch of trash the next day, sometimes the next tide.
All ocean gyres are accumulating our garbage. Being on the southeast coast of Florida, the beaches we routinely visit and clean are close to the west edge of the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre; where the Sargasso Sea is located. Currents and strong winds bring marine pollution to our coastline. Much of this stuff has been swirling out in the Sargasso Sea for a while before it gets tossed upon our beach along with the sargassum. Out at sea these vital sargassum mats provide food, shelter, and protection for a wide variety of animals. The mats also serve as a rich nursery for a large diversity of juvenile marine life.
We are finding a disturbing amount of plastic and styrofoam debris that is partially eaten by sea turtles, fish, birds, sharks and crustaceans. Animals are consuming our trash.
By reducing our impact we all have the power to help stop this crisis. By consuming less single-use, throw-away items we can create less waste and in return, save wildlife. Whether you live near the ocean or far inland trash ends up in the sea through water runoffs, streams, and rivers. It is estimated that 80% of marine debris is land-based garbage. Remember, there is no away!
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