Last week you read about the River Clean Up and our continuing struggle to keep our river and streams free of garbage. This yearly event is not a ceremonial exercise. It is a crucial awareness campaign designed to get local communities invested in the health of their drinking water. Over 70% of our earth is water. 97% of that is salt water. Only 0.7% is consumable water. That doesn’t sound like a lot of water compared to the other numbers but it is. How can we keep it clean?
Human population is growing exponentially. According to the WORLD POPClock Projection (U.S. Census Bureau) as of 2/1/09 at 10:32 GMT there were 6,757,635,828 people on earth. That number is expected to reach 8 billion by 2020. Almost 3 billion people live within 60 miles of a coastline. Rapid urbanization, especially in developing countries will lead to more coastal development and bigger coastal cities. This means coastal water quality will suffer and there will be more debris, more waste. We must get scientific about the prevention and proper disposal of all the garbage.
At the Ocean Conservancy’s annual cleanup day last year, “nearly 7 million pounds of garbage was collected from waterways and shorelines around the world.
The 10 most common items:
3,216,991 cigarettes and filters
1,377,141 plastic bags
942,620 food wrappers and containers
937,804 caps and lids
714,892 plastic bottles
530,607 paper bags
509,593 straws and stirrers
441,053 cups, plates, forks, knives and spoons
434,990 glass bottles
401,412 drink cans”.
Some trash that ends up in our waterways and oceans is biodegradable. And while many of the above items could have been recycled, so much of our garbage has a very long shelf life.
In an online article by Jo Hartley of Naturalnews.com, there is a toxic soup of plastic twice the size of the U.S. floating in the Northern Pacific Ocean. The “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” was discovered by a U.S. oceanographer named Charles Moore. Approximately one-fifth of the plastic comes from ships and oil platforms. The other four-fifths come from land. It is estimated that plastic makes up 90% of all the refuse floating in the ocean.
That’s why our modest little River Cleanup is so critical. The solution begins in our own backyard.