trash on beach

One sustainability tip is to drink out of an aluminum can rather than a plastic bottle. 

Beach trips and summertime go hand in hand, but continuous littering on beaches over the years has wreaked havoc on the environment. To curb this problem, greater mass cleanup operations need to be initiated both locally and internationally, including visitors to beaches making a concerted effort to clean up after themselves to prevent the accumulation of trash in the first place.

The issue of beach pollution spans the globe and affects beaches in even the most remote locations. Henderson Island is an uninhabited island located in the South Pacific. Despite its remoteness, however, a recent study showed that 17.6 tons of debris are present on the island, mainly due to plastic products.

The amount of debris may even be higher than estimated, since many pieces of trash were found buried under the sand and the ocean is constantly moving trash around to new locations, making it difficult to collect concrete data. The plastic products and other trash not only mar the pristine appearance of the beach, but negatively affect the lives of the animals that call the beach home.

If one of the most remote beaches in the world is heavily affected by human-made pollution, then populated beaches could cause a great amount of firsthand pollution by beachgoers.

Every year, St. Simons Island—a.k.a. Frat Beach—welcomes thousands of students on the for the annual Georgia-Florida football game. This weekend is one of the busiest and most profitable of the year for the island, but that kind of spike in population, means a detrimental increase in pollution.

The increased amount of security in 2015 scared off many attendees and decreased the volume of people usually expected that weekend; however, something still needs to be done to reduce the amount of damage left behind by students, alumni and other visitors without sacrificing the livelihood of business owners on St. Simons Island.

Ultimately, beach visitors—whether at Frat Beach or halfway across the world—need to hold each other accountable for their littering. People cannot be expected to pick up after others or police each other on the beach. But, throwing away just one piece of trash that isn’t theirs can make a difference. Seeing this positive behavior can also inspire others to do the same.

People must also take initiative to prevent the possibility of littering on beaches. For instance, using reusable water bottles as opposed to plastic bottles whenever possible, or designating a bag to collect trash instead of leaving it in the sand.

Keeping trash off the ground is key: what remains on the ground can be drawn into the water when the tide rises, causing it to float away and possibly end up in a remote location on the other side of the ocean. These effects are seen firsthand in the case of Henderson Island considering it is uninhabited yet filled with trash.

With greater communication between law enforcement and beachgoers, as well as the use of preventative measures, littering can be reduced on beaches both close to home and around the globe. Going the extra mile and picking up a few pieces of someone else’s trash might seem pointless, but this action can contribute to the cleanliness of the beach and the well-being of the those who live there.

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