March came in like a lion and may go out like one, if the weather forecast is correct. Spring is right around the corner — the time of year when Rider students start to set their sights on summer vacation.
Each year, it becomes increasingly noticeable how much litter is left behind after a day of fun in the sun. I encourage you to take a good look around next time you’re on a beach. All of that trash, when not picked up, makes its way into the ocean.
The ocean is always thought of as beautiful and full of life; however, pollution is becoming an increasingly dangerous issue to our seas.
Junior biology major Mariam Chaudhry said, “I recognize that pollution in the ocean is a serious threat to marine life. I just wish people took the issue more seriously.”
According to National Geographic, 8 million tons of plastic get dumped into the sea each year. Not only does this have a monumental effect on marine life, but it impacts the Rider community as well.
Oceanography Professor Reed Schwimmer mentioned that it is not just the plastic bags and other large pieces of trash that harm marine life, but also plastic pellets called nurdles.
“These plastic beads are the raw materials used to make plastic products. Nurdles absorb other pollutants, such as chemicals and metals, and become hazardous to the many animals that directly or indirectly ingest them,” he said. “The problem with these chemicals and metals is that they stay in the animals and accumulate. As for humans, when we eat seafood, we also ingest the pollutants, which have the potential of significantly affecting our health over time.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food containers and packaging are the leading factors of the urban solid waste stream, with 80 million tons or 31.7 percent of the waste being food packaging. Combined with single-use plastic bags, this waste makes up the largest portion of the trash floating on the ocean surface. This poses a threat to birds that use this as their hunting grounds. It is estimated that 1 million seabirds die every year due to plastic.
Birds are not the only animal that suffer from consumption of plastic and other waste that ends up in water. Sea turtles often mistake plastic bags floating in the water for jellyfish and will attempt to eat them. These bags will block the sea turtles’ digestive system and eventually kill them. Other sea creatures eat this trash or get tangled in it which can be fatal.
A single person creates more waste than we realize because it seems to be out of sight, out of mind in a landfill. According to seeturtles.org, 80 percent of ocean pollution is washed into the water from landfills. This contamination has an effect on us at Rider by adding toxins to our seafood.
There are many things we can do as college students to combat this growing problem of plastic waste in the ocean. Being mindful of what we throw away and what can be recycled can have a huge impact on the pollution issue. It is our job to reduce, reuse, recycle and refuse. Refusing can be as simple as saying you don’t need a plastic bag for that one food item at the convenient store, or getting a reusable straw and refusing plastic ones.
At Daly Dining Hall and Cranberry’s, Aramark has a “Green To Go” program where you can refuse polluting containers that would otherwise end up in a landfill and switch to reusable ones. Just because you are one person does not mean you can’t make a difference.
To learn more about this important issue, come see our next green film “A Plastic Ocean” on March 20 and 21 at 7 p.m. in Sweigart 115 or talk to a campus Eco Rep.
— Alison Fisher and Brianne Gallina
Lawrenceville Eco Reps