For many, the ocean is a place of peace and relaxation. A trip to the shore can instantly clear the mind and relieve the stresses of a busy week. The beauty of the landscape and the fresh scent of sea air help reset the mind and provide relief from busy city life.
The unique blend of essential oils and terpenes helps to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, regardless of whether you’re in the city or out in nature.
While the beach is certainly a beautiful place to be, the increase of plastic pollution continues to make more and more shorelines unappealing to the eye. Unfortunately, aesthetic quality is the least of the problems caused by plastic pollution.
Approximately eight million metric tons of plastic are thrown into the ocean every single year. This is expected to increase tenfold by the year 2020. This negatively affects all marine organisms, especially those that mistake plastic for food. Coral reefs, which are home to more than 25% of all marine life, are at risk for disease when coming into contact with plastic. 1
All of this is just happening inside of the ocean. The next time you take a trip to the beach, look around at the amount of plastic pollution just on the shore. Empty soda bottles, chip bags, and candy wrappers often litter the area. While these facts are disheartening, there are places around the world where people are attempting to put a stop to this plastic pollution. While there are plenty of ocean shores that are littered with plastic, there are others that have been kept pristine.
Effects of Plastic Pollution on Human Health
The negative effects of plastic pollution don’t stop at marine life. The health of the ocean directly affects human health. It is estimated that each square kilometer of the ocean has 63,320 particles of microplastics floating on the surface. Seas off of some East Asian countries have even higher levels.
Bits of microplastics are now a common part of marine animals diets. In a recent study, 25% of marine fish sold in markets in Indonesia and California were found to have plastic in their guts. As plastic continues to move up in the food chain, humans are now consuming plastic every time they eat seafood.
This, of course, is in trace amounts. Yet with plastic pollution becoming a bigger and bigger problem every year, this amount is believed to increase.
Microplastics found in food increase human exposure to the harmful chemicals that are found in these plastics. Many of these chemicals have been linked to certain cancers. While restricting seafood from your diet can decrease the amount of these chemicals you ingest, marine life is still negatively affected by it. 2
Since 70% of the oxygen on earth is produced by marine plants, their health is directly tied to the health of the entire Earth. If plastic pollution begins to kill off these essential organisms, humans may have bigger problems than trash littering the shore.
The World’s Cleanest Ocean Shores
While plastic pollution continues to be a problem worldwide, there are places in the world that seem beautifully untouched by society. Part of the reason these shores are so pristine is the simple fact that they are far from cities. Another reason is that those who visit these beaches make an effort to keep them clean.
Fraser Island, Australia
The beach of Fraser Island is located in Queensland, Australia. It is constantly ranked as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and has even been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site since 1992. This distinction made it necessary to keep the beach as clean as possible, and it continues to be to this day. The sand has a beautiful reddish hue due to coral and clay, and the water oftentimes takes on this same color. There are more than 350 different types of birds on Fraser Island, and it has become a popular spot for people who are looking for a break from more popular beaches in Australia.
The Maldives are a chain of 26 different islands scattered throughout the Indian Ocean. If you’ve ever seen a photograph of a tropical paradise with unbelievably crystal clear waters, chances are that photo was taken in the Maldives. It is a popular vacation spot for celebrities and wealthy people, as most places you can stay are beautiful and secluded. Despite the fact that the Maldives are a huge tourist destination, all of the ocean shores are kept clean.
The beaches of Bora Bora, an island located in French Polynesia, are known as some of the most beautiful in the world. Bora Bora’s beaches are known for their crystal clear waters and picture-perfect white sand. Like the Maldives, Bora Bora is a popular spot for celebrities, wealthy people, and honeymooners. Because the island thrives on tourism, those who live and work there make sure that the beaches continue to be as pristine as visitors imagine them to be.
El Nido, Philippines
El Nido is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Philippines and continues to be a popular destination for tourists of all ages. This collection of islands located in the Pacific Ocean relies mostly on tourists to support the local economy. Because of this, there was a large push to clean up the beaches in order to create a location that people would want to visit.
El Nido is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and is home to many varieties of tropical fish that cannot be found anywhere else. Scuba diving, kayaking, and swimming are all popular here. Because of economic issues, the Philippines continues to be a cheap destination.
Ambergris Caye, Belize
Ambergris Caye is the largest island of Belize, located in the Caribbean Sea. While this Central American country offers many beautiful beaches, those of Ambergris Caye are particularly stunning. It is located next to the Belize Barrier Reef, which is second in size only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
This makes Ambergris Caye one of Belize’s most popular snorkeling and diving locations. Turtles, eels, and other marine life often frequent its crystal-clear waters. Even though it's a popular tourist destination, the ocean shores remain free of litter. 3
Doing Your Part
If more people made an effort to clean the earth’s shores, beaches could once again be a place of relaxation for all. Doing your part to help reduce plastic pollution is simple:
- Bring your own reusable water bottle instead of using plastic bottles
- Pack it in, pack it out: always take all of your trash with you when leaving
- Leave the beach in better condition than you found it
Many environmental organizations bring people together on certain days to clean a particular area. In this case, many hands make light work. If you can’t get in touch with a local organization, try to gather a group of friends to make a day of it.
Have a picnic on the beach, enjoy a swim in the waves, and then all work together to clean up a stretch of shore to leave it better for the next visitors. Even small steps can make a significant difference. If every person begins to take these small steps, even the world’s most polluted beaches can slowly be transformed back into beautiful, pristine landscapes.
Photo credits: AfriramPOE/shutterstock.com, BenediktJuerges/shutterstock.com, MartinValigursky/shutterstock.com, SimonDannhauer/shutterstock.com, DonPablo/shutterstock.com