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The Gap Year Blog

Plastic Beaches

9 Oct 2019 13:05 PM

Sandy beaches, blue skies and sun kissed bodies. When I arrived in Belize over a month ago I thought I'd just landed in paradise. The Central American vibe chilled in the air. I couldn't wait to start working and collecting data for the marine conservation group I was volunteering with for the next 6 weeks.

The crystal-clear water was calling my name and I was excited to see the coral reef everyone had been talking about. As I expected, it was incredible! The corals were like nothing I'd ever seen, beaming with life and colour. However, I soon realised that this fragile environment was suffering. I began noticing small pieces of plastic floating in the water everywhere I looked, then I found a magnificent fire coral completely wrapped in plastic. This was when it hit me. In that moment I realised that plastic is everywhere in the ocean.

Every part of our planet, the protected reefs, the rainforests, even the deepest darkest parts of our oceans are polluted by human waste. This isn't an issue solely effecting Belize, it's a global issue. We spend our weekends doing beach cleans, pacing up and down our island’s beaches collecting trash. As you can imagine, I love being a part of this and it makes me happy. However, soon after every beach clean we did, the beaches would end up covered in trash once again, after only a couple of days. It seemed like all the hard work, all the sweat and exhaustion we put into preserving the nature in our area was for nothing. One of the mains things that has bothered me is the endless stream of tourists that pass through just throw their empty wrappers and bottles onto the streets without a second thought. They come to Belize to enjoy this 'secret paradise', whilst destroying the precious eco systems at the same time. Even though everyone knows exactly what they are doing, they act oblivious to it.

The plastic wrapped around the coral and the trash on the beaches are only small fragments of an enormous, constantly growing issue - the impacts of plastic pollution. So often we hear about turtles or dolphins swallowing or getting stuck in pieces of plastic and dying because of it. In fact, plastic that enters the ocean is largely because of the tourists who visit these countries to have encounters with these special creatures, thereby destroying their habitats with human waste.

But you already know this don't you? Nothing I'm telling you is new. You'll have read these stories whilst drinking from your single use plastic water bottle or eating out of a polystyrene take out box that takes hundreds of years to decompose. Micro plastics are killing and polluting even the smallest organisms in the food chain. This means every living thing, every part of that food chain including humans are being poisoned.

You know the facts but what will you do about it? Will you play your part in conserving our natural environment or will you act oblivious? Will you sit back and watch our reefs die off and marine life disappear, doing absolutely nothing to stop it from happening? Or will you start getting involved and educate people on these issues? Will you be one of those people who will be able to say that they did everything in their power to take action, and live a more sustainable life? I know what I can tell the future generations. What will you tell them?


By Lara Seyfried Cohen, Frontier Belize Volunteer