Environment

The Ocean is Literally Covered in Trash—Here’s What We Can Do

It's more than a beautiful place, it sustains all of life.
June 15, 2017, 12:32am
More than meets the eye: even the most beautiful beaches in the world are affected by ocean waste.

Corona's home is the beach. They've teamed up with Parley for the Oceans, an organisation dedicated to addressing major threats towards our oceans. Together, they've made a commitment to clean ocean plastic from 100 islands across the world by 2020.

VICE travelled to Tulum, Mexico (on behalf of Corona) to learn more about the partnership and solutions for reducing ocean waste.

Leading environmentalists say we've only got 6-16 years before we start to see the decline of most sea life.

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We asked some ocean experts—Greg Long, big wave surfer; Kahi Pacarro, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii; and Iain Kerr, CEO of Ocean Alliance—what we can do to reverse our impact in this short time.

VICE: What is the biggest cause of destruction to the ocean in 2017?
Greg Long: Ocean plastic and overfishing. With surfing, I've had the fortune of travelling the world for the last 15 years and there is nowhere in the world that is immune. Even coastlines that are uninhabited, with zero trace of human existence, show signs that we have most definitely been there.
Kahi Pacarro: Plastic. Over consumption of plastic and poor waste management infrastructure. Oh, and global warming. And ocean acidification.
Iain Kerr: Probably carbon dioxide absorption. The oceans are sucking up 70% of the CO2 that we create.

In the context of global issues like war and terrorism, why do we all still need to make time for the protection of the ocean?
Kahi: America right now is focusing on the terrorism issue. How many people die annually from terrorism is very small compared to what will happen as a result of us killing the oceans. Fear puts us in a position of focus, but the real issue is climate change, plastic pollution, et cetera, and it's just hard for people to see ahead.
Iain: We don't seem to have the capacity to look out and say, "OK, what am I doing now, how will that affect me?" Politically, the environment is never a high item, yet unless it's environmental, any decision being made in government today won't be remembered in 100 years. I do believe if the people lead, the leaders will follow.

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Drones are being used to collect data without infringing on marine life.

What are some initiatives or innovations that are at the forefront of helping to save the ocean?
Iain: Citizen science is interesting now. Previously you needed big resources to study marine mammals. One of the tools we are developing, Snotbot, uses drones to collect biological data without disrupting the whales. More people can afford a $1,000 drone and so now global data is more accessible, allowing us to document our impact on whales and their habitat.
Kahi: Large scale clean ups around the world are helping people see the problem firsthand. Picking up your 15th bottle cap or straw helps people awaken to their part in the problem. We/I am part of the problem, we/I are part of the solution—by simply refusing to use virgin plastic.

What are your top priorities when it comes to solutions?
Greg: Rewriting the narrative of how we are consuming and producing plastic. It will just continue to show up on beaches until we restructure at the very top. It's why I am so intrigued and excited to be involved with Parley, looking at redesign rather than reaction.
Iain: I want to understand what human actions affect marine mammals. My group collect data, write papers, and present the information to policy makers. They are working through, 'If we do this, will the stock market with crash?', and I'm doing that with the environmental stock market; collecting and giving them the information.
Kahi: Utilising ocean plastic and using it as a commodity and resource for products instead of virgin plastic. If we can keep plastics that already exist in a lifecycle of products, and allow us not to have to use virgin plastic, that's less oil, less war, less waste.

A seaweed clean up in Tulum.

What can we do to take care of the sea?
Greg: Be engaged with the sea in some way. Educate yourself in some way on what the ocean gives all of us. It's more than this beautiful place; it sustains all of life. Looking at how you are consuming (where we do grocery shopping; gifts you're buying; everyday items) and where you can lessen your impact.
Kahi: Realise you do have power. Clean beaches start at home, so really use the power of your wallet to create a demand for products that are sustainable or enhance the environment, and minimise demand for products that harm the environment.
Iain: Everybody can do something: if we make sure shit doesn't go down into the ocean, we will have a better life. Gravity never sleeps; the oil from your car, pesticide on your lawn—everything is inevitably washing down into the ocean. So we just have to change our minds to the value of the marine environment and we can change the world.

The only way to combat ocean waste is to become involved. You can find out more about the work that Corona and Parley are doing at CoronaXParley.com, and learn about ways that you can help.