Marine pollution is a major problem affecting coastal regions of the world. Approximately 6.4 million tons of waste find its way into oceans annually (Polythene Pam, 2014). Marine pollution results from the effects of both environmental factors and human activities. Environmental factors such as rainfall cause run-offs, which carry pollutants from the land and deposit them in oceans. Human activities are the major cause of marine pollution, accounting for over 80% (Gunther). Such activities include the dumping of plastic garbage, oil spills, sewerage discharge and discharge of toxic chemicals from industries. Statistics indicates that plastic garbage is the dominant marine pollutant, accounting for 60-80% of total pollutants. In addition, 70% of the plastic dumped into oceans sink to the ocean floor (Polythene Pam, 2014). Plastic wastes cause harm to marine animals such as blocking their breathing passages, choking and strangulation. Furthermore, planktons consume micro-plastic particles and enter the food chain eventually to cause diseases such as cancer and gastrointestinal illnesses in human beings.
The UAE has been battling with plastic dumping along its beaches. These plastic wastes make the beaches unattractive to tourists, resulting into huge revenue losses for local authorities and loss of employment associated with tourism. A recent report highlighted the dumping of a large number of plastic bags along the beach in Umm Al Quwain by a freight ship (The National.com, 2014). These bags contained varied types of wastes. Similar instances of plastic dumping have been recorded in the past, indicating ineffectiveness of the current laws in combating the vice. Furthermore, latest statistics shows the death of sea turtles in Dubai’s Al Sufouh Beach caused by ingestion of garbage thrown by people into the ocean (IOSEA, 2014). Such garbage includes polythene bags that suffocate the turtles underwater. Thus, these reptiles prefer to swim on the surface where the airflow is uninhibited, risking being crushed by ships in the process. This report seeks to evaluate the effectiveness of local solutions to plastic pollution that can later be applied on a large scale in homes, neighborhood and along the beaches.
- Proposed solutions
The group proposed three localized solutions to reduce the amount of plastic waste in homes and neighborhoods. These solutions include plastic recycling, re-use and clean-up programs. Recycling involves reprocessing of used plastic waste into similar or different plastic products. This solution is key because it facilitates the conversion of used, or damaged plastic materials into other useful products instead of being dumped along the streets and beaches.
Re-use involves finding alternative uses for plastic materials once their originally intended purposes have been exhausted such as using plastic soda bottles as water bottles or as storage containers. Re-use significantly reduces the amount of plastic waste. In addition, it lowers the quantity of similar plastic materials purchased in the future. Clean-up programs involve collecting plastic garbage from designated areas by a group of people. This method reduces the magnitude of plastic garbage significantly within a short period if it is well implemented. In addition, clean-ups promote other social benefits such as team spirit and unity.
The data collected was quantitative in nature, involving the number of plastic bottles and polythene bags. It was collected by observation and tallying. The trial period was one month. The location of the trial was in two homes and neighborhood.
The trial aimed at determining the most effective method in reducing plastic wastes. This effectiveness was established by analyzing the trend for each proposed solution, and comparing the overall percentage decrease in plastic waste.
- Data collection
The project was threefold in nature. Mohamed collected data on recycling by observing, counting and recording the number of plastic materials collected in his home each week for a month. He then took these materials to the recycling plant at the end of each week.
Eid collected data on re-use. He used the number of plastic materials purchased in his home each week for a month to indicate the quantity of reused plastics. A gradual decrease in the amount of plastic materials purchased would indicate re-use.
Saeed collected data on clean-up by organizing one clean-up event per week for a month. He included his family members and a few friends to make a total of fifteen adults. The activity was carried out in his neighborhood, divided into four sections for the four weeks. He counted and recorded the number of plastic bottles and bags per week.
The weekly totals collected on recycling, reusing and clean-ups are presented in table 1, table 2 and table 3 respectively. Table 4 shows the percentage decrease for the proposed solutions. The trial resulted in several findings. Firstly, the data on recycling indicated a small variation in the total number of collected plastic materials, showing a slight decrease of 1.26%. Secondly, the data on clean-ups indicated a larger decrease than recycling of 37.87%. Thirdly, re-use data showed the greatest decline of 85.71%. Bottles took up a greater portion of plastic materials than bags. Of the three solutions, the weekly clean-ups resulted into the highest number of collected plastic materials. However, this figure decreases from week to week.
Recycling data was unexpected because, usually, it is associated with efficiency in plastic waste management. The slight weekly variations and a small decrease may be due to complacency and ingrained habits regarding the use of plastics that are hard to break. Given that there was someone to collect the materials and take them to the recycling factory each week, the other family members were less inclined to minimize plastic use. On the bright side, this method prevented the potential dumping of the collected plastics on the streets or along the beaches.
Re-use of plastic material was the most effective, showing the highest individual decrease in plastic waste. The higher the decrease of purchased plastic bottles and bags, the higher the re-use rate. This decrease can be due to increased awareness by other family members on the need to reduce their portion of plastic waste. In addition, they may temporarily alter their habits in order to yield positive results since they know they are being observed. Thus, as more bottles and bags get reused, the quantity of those purchased on a weekly basis goes down.
Clean-ups resulted into the highest number of plastic waste collected. This high figure is because there were more people involved in the activity, and they may have wanted to obtain positive results for the trial. However, the total figure decreases from week to week. This decrease may be attributed to a fall in morale as the weeks elapse. When the initial excitement wanes off, some group members may feel disillusioned because people in the neighborhood continue dumping plastic litter even after such clean-ups have occurred. In addition, some may fail to show up in the subsequent activities. Hence, an urgent need for motivation exists. Such motivation can be achieved by offering incentives in order to maintain high morale. For instance, persons or teams that collect the highest plastic litter can receive rewards.
This trial raises important lessons to both individuals and communities regarding plastic waste. Firstly, the notion that plastic pollution is so vast that it cannot be solved should be disregarded. This trial proves that even the smallest actions go a long way in creating a clean environment. Secondly, plastic waste elimination is largely the responsibility of individuals rather than the local authorities. Thus, each person should minimize his or her ecological footprint by reusing, recycling or eliminating plastic materials. Such actions will enable the government to save on the costs associated with plastic waste removal, and channel such finances to development projects. Thirdly, communities can organize environmental clean-ups in form of competitions in order to motivate people into taking part in the activities. Monetary or non-monetary rewards can be given to individuals or teams that collect the most litter. Furthermore, clean-ups can offer opportunities for social interaction and foster cohesiveness and team spirit among community members.
This trial can be improved by expanding the sample size of families and neighborhoods because each has different habits regarding plastic use. Thus, with a larger sample size, the interplay of behavioral and social factors affecting plastic use can be observed. Pollution is a vice that every individual should take action to mitigate its effect. Otherwise, humanity will compromise its survival and that of future generations. In addition, we will cause the extinction of other marine species along with our own.
Indian Ocean South East Asian Marine Turtles Organization (IOSEA). (2014). UAE: Turtles found dead on Dubai’s Al Sufouh Beach. Retrieved November 6, 2014. http://www.ioseaturtles.org/headline_detail.php?id=3906.
Michael, Gunther. N.d. Marine Problems: Pollution. Retrieved November 6, 2014. From http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/blue_planet/problems/pollution/.
Polythene Pam. (2014). Dirty Beaches, Polluted Sea. Retrieved November 6, 2014. From http://plasticisrubbish.com/2014/02/09/dirty-beaches-polluted-sea/.
The National.com. (2014). Numerous Plastic Waste Bags Found on UAQ Beach. The National UAE. Retrieved November 6, 2014. From http://www.thenational.ae/uae/environment/numerous-plastic-waste-bags-found-on-uaq-beach.