What scuba diving can teach us about plastic pollution

Photo by Ian Shive of a dolphin off the coast of Midway Atoll

By Torben Lonne

Scuba diving has an amazing way of hooking you from the first moment you jump in the water. Scuba diving allows you to be a visitor to world that is full of mystery, beauty, and colors like you have never seen before. 

In the past decade, scuba diving has changed dramatically. There used to be a time when divers could travel to pretty much any location around the world and be met with stunning underwater scenery, rich, diverse marine life, and crystal clear waters. Unfortunately, pollution has bought our oceans to a critical state.

In the Pacific Ocean, there is a tiny island that is as remote as tiny islands can get called the Midway Atoll. I spent 3 weeks diving within the waters surrounding Midway Atoll to see just how far out plastic pollution has penetrated our oceans.

On my very first dive, we approached a stunningly beautiful, untouched coral reef that can only be described as ‘awe-inspiring.’ With a quick glance around the reef, I was happy to see little to no trash at all, that was until the surrounding currents changed.

Within seconds this idyllic location turned into what can only be described as a cesspit of plastic and trash. Straws, bags, and tin cans drifted in front of us and flooded the reef. Observing the fish pecking away at the free-floating straws pushed me to become an advocate for the ocean. I now strive to ensure that we build a sustainable, plastic-free future for not only us, but also our children.

Did you know that more than 8 million tons of plastic and waste enter the ocean every single year? This amount is growing rapidly due to our consumer lifestyle. Companies are producing too much plastic. Recycling rates are down, and the vast majority of plastic ends up in our environment (whether landfill or waterways and the ocean).

Plastic bags can look remarkably like jellyfish to turtles, which are a viable food source. Sadly, turtles consume plastic, which cause blockages within their digestive tracts, which can cause a slow and very painful end. The impact that ocean pollution is having on marine life is staggering: fatalities as a result of ingestion, starvation, suffocation, infection, drowning, and entanglement.

If you would like to make a difference in the world, here's what you can do:

REFUSE

Refuse single-use plastics whenever possible. To start, bring your own water bottle and shopping bag with you.

Limit Your Takeaways

Takeaways are often packaged in copious amounts of plastic, which will likely not be recycled. If you do plan to get a takeaway, make sure to go and collect it with your own reusable containers.  

Recycle

Recycle everything you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse. Check with your local services to see what is accepted. 

Join A Beach Clean Up

If you find yourself walking down the beach and see plastic, make sure to pick it up and bin it appropriately.

Become An Ocean Advocate

Tell your friends and family about the epidemic that is ocean pollution. Once people begin to see how devastating the effects of ocean pollution are, then they will start to make changes to their lifestyles.

Torben Lonne shares his expertise on DIVE.in for all passionate about diving. He's also an avid ocean advocate and tries to educate people about the damage plastic pollution does to our ocean and the world as a whole.