Columns, Opinion

Burke’s Bully Pulpit: Plastic in the ocean must be taken seriously

Before moving back to BU, I spent a week on Cape Cod winding down and taking in some of my favorite views. My friends and I sat around and joked about how worried we were to go in the water, for fear of being dinner for a shark.

Many of my friends and family members also mentioned that plastic pollution in the ocean was atop their list of worries. It’s refreshing to think that we’re actually starting to understand that being okay with a huge garbage patch floating in the middle of the ocean isn’t conducive to living a responsible life.

The true reason it was refreshing is because being environmentally friendly is usually associated with being a young, crunchy type of thinker. In my personal experience, older people don’t care as much about how our trash is disposed. Maybe it’s because they are closer out the door than I am. But this isn’t a piece on how thought processes change as you get closer to death. This is a “congratulations” to the people who understand the fact that the way we get rid of the trash in our daily lives needs to improve.

Think about this: we wouldn’t treat our homes the way we treat the earth. We don’t just go into a big room to throw away our plastic and trash, forgetting that they ever existed in the first place. We don’t let everything build up (unless you’re trying to be the star of the next Hoarders episode) because it’s dirty and unpleasant. It is an eyesore and obviously detrimental to the health of everyone that comes in contact with it. This same thought process should be used when we talk about what happens to our trash after it leaves our house. We shouldn’t just throw our mess into the ocean, leaving it for some future generation.

For some positive news, there is a company based in California called The Ocean Cleanup working to reduce the amount of garbage in the Pacific Ocean. They’ve created a gigantic, 2,000-foot tube-like mechanism to skim the water and get rid of the things that humans throw in the ocean. It’s an awe-inspiring thing to see. The plan is to cut garbage waste in our oceans by 90 percent by the year 2040.

They need to work fast, seeing as that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, according to a study by the World Economic Forum. Think about that for a second. I can’t even wrap my mind around how many fish are in the ocean. Now, you’re telling me that there is going to be more plastic floating around than I can comprehend? It’s obviously time for a massive change in the way we live.I have been a satirical critic of recycling in the past. I gave my friends grief for separating their trash. I think I did it because the problem felt too big to solve on an individual level. I might have done it to get under their skin. Do I really think that recycling is “fake news,” as I’ve tweeted in the past? Absolutely not.

Politicians need to do a better job regulating how much plastic waste big companies in America produce. There should be excessive fines to deter companies from using plastic altogether. There are obviously other options to use, but companies prefer the cheaper route — one that adds to the amount of pollution in our air, ground and water.

One of the best ideas I have seen to date comes from Indonesia. Residents in the city of Surabaya have the option to pay for their public transportation pass with plastic. The plastic gets recycled, and the “free” public transportation incentivizes the citizens to not drive their cars everywhere, cutting down on pollution from cars. While this may not be an economically viable option long term, this type of thinking will pave the way for humans to be more environmentally conscious.

We have one planet. Treat it with respect. If we don’t, future generations won’t be able to experience the true beauty of our Earth like I had the pleasure of doing a few weeks ago.

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