Sometimes, all it takes is one person to inspire collective action, as proved by a group of strangers who worked together to transform a beach.
“The most amazing thing happened today,” reads a caption in a video posted to the r/DeTrashed subreddit. “Someone started picking up the trash from the water.”
The post shows an idyllic beach full of people relaxing in the sun, while one person wades in the water putting bits of trash into a plastic bag.
“People started to [realize] what they were doing. Then everyone at the beach [was] picking up the trash!” reads the caption.
In the next clip, the videographer is holding their own plastic bag and the whole beach has joined in with the spontaneous trash collecting.
Another shot shows the huge trash pile collected from the beach. “This was only half of what got [picked] up!” reads the caption.
There are an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the world’s oceans, with at least 14 million tons entering marine ecosystems each year. That number is predicted to skyrocket to around 32 million tons by 2040.
Once plastic enters the ocean, it can have devastating effects for human health and for animals.
Plastic breaks down into microplastics, which are absorbed by aquatic life. Humans then ingest plastic through the seafood we eat.
These microplastics can contain toxins and have been linked to cancers, birth defects, and low sperm counts.
Marine wildlife like seabirds, whales and turtles can die of starvation if they ingest plastic. They may also become entangled and lose the ability to swim, or even suffocate.
Picking up trash from one beach may feel like a small dent in a colossal problem, but evidence suggests that litter pickers working together can go a long way.
Ocean Conservancy, for example, has collected 348 million pounds of trash in the 35 years of its International Coastal Cleanup..
“The ripple effect we need everywhere,” wrote the Redditor who crossposted the video.
“This is why I keep picking up one piece of trash on my dog’s walks,” replied one Redditor. “Maybe it won’t matter, but I imagine if every dog owner picked up one piece of trash per walk then the sheer amount would add up.”
“I started picking up trash when we went on vacation a few years ago,” said another. “So far my favorite pieces are the IKEA chip clip from Stanley Park beach and the strip of “DO NOT ENTER” caution tape we pulled out of the ocean in Vancouver.”
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