As a child, I collected seashells and other interesting objects I found on the beach. These days when I walk the beaches of Monterey Bay, I don’t find the same things. I find bottle caps, plastic bottles, food containers, balloons, shoes, toys… the list goes on. During recent kayak trips, I’ve picked up a floating green tub and a child’s pink crocs shoe. Sadly, marine debris is everywhere. We know it’s unsightly and harmful, but did you know that it’s also costly?
According to a 2012 study (Stickel et al.), that I just read, combatting marine debris costs the three U.S. West Coast states an estimated US $520 million — more than half-a-billion dollars — each year. (This doesn’t account for waves of debris on the way from Japan’s 2011 tsunami.)
Because everything eventually flows to the ocean, this cost included beach and waterway cleanup, street sweeping, installation of stormwater capture devices, storm drain cleaning and maintenance (Did you see the Dirty Jobs storm drain episode? So gross!), manual cleanup of litter, and public anti‐littering campaigns (to encourage us to be decent citizens).
Just think of all of the other important things we could spend that money on if we weren’t spending it on debris control and cleanup. So please, share this news and watch your waste. Dispose of it properly (check with your local waste management agency), join a cleanup event, and when you encounter debris on the beach, pick it up and trash it. Every little bit you do helps. This has always made environmental and civic sense, and now it makes economical sense, too.