Jackie Thompson

The United States generates more plastic trash than any other nation, according to reports, and even ranks as high as third among coastal nations when it comes to contributing litter to its shorelines. However, when it comes to the broader reasons behind coastal and marine pollution, littering and dumping are primary contributors. From the negative effects of each to how the EPA works to prevent such issues and even how you can do your part, here’s what you need to know.

The Negative Impact of Dumping

Defined as the dumping of garbage and other waste materials in the ocean, ocean dumping is a detrimental practice that has a severe and negative effect on the ocean and its wildlife. This is primarily due to the problematic nature of dumping, as waste materials can contain any number of substances — from plastic to mercury, cryolite, and DDT. In turn, the dumping of garbage and other materials in the ocean have the potential to deplete the oxygen, thus impacting the wildlife; not to mention the choking hazard and other negative effects that plastic can bring.

Trash and Tourism

While causes of coastal pollution vary and often include harmful runoff and garbage immigrating from other countries, tourism is yet another major factor that can contribute to the problem as well. This is particularly an issue in states that heavily depend on tourism (and as such, clean water), like Florida. In fact, Florida actually has the most incidents of plastic killing sea animals than any other state, though they’re not the only state dealing with such issues. California is yet another state that depends on tourism, and has a number of family friendly and beautiful beaches, including that of La Jolla Cove in San Diego, where a significant amount of marine wildlife can be seen, including starfish and sea lions. Like in Florida, however, a significant amount of plastic found on beaches due to tourism contributes to the negative impact on such wildlife, leading to harm via consumption, choking hazards, and the potential for entanglement.

Protecting the Oceans 

Due to the major problems that dumping and litter can bring, there are measures in place to aid the issues. For example, in regards to dumping, the Ocean Dumping Management Program involves the EPA’s headquarters and regional offices working together to prevent and limit the dumping of harmful materials, and the EPA regularly evaluates ocean disposal inquires in order to ensure that everything is appropriately handled in a way that protects both humanity and the environment. When it comes to beach litter, however, local penalties in the form of fines are often enforced, though it’s necessary to keep in mind that you can also do your part by properly disposing of your garbage while at the beach, or even by making it a point to go plastic-free such as by bringing reusable water bottles and food in reusable containers.

Coastal marine pollution is a major problem in the United States, with dumping and beach pollution from tourism being major contributors. However, by being a responsible beach-goer and via the EPA’s efforts to minimize illegal dumping, ocean pollution and the negative effects it has on wildlife can be mitigated.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash