Ocean Fills: Another Dumping Ground

by | Jan 18, 2023 | Waste Management

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Communities have historically utilized the ocean all over the world to discharge pollutants, particularly industrial and chemical waste. The waste, which is primarily from human activity waste, is transported by currents far from its original location and ends up in the seas. The garbage fills up the oceans and pollutes the ecosystems they sustain. This raises the concern that ocean fills will turn into another dumping ground if not prevented.

The negative consequences of garbage disposal and any practical methods to reuse or recycle them were not considered significant. Because marine waters might mix and distribute pollutants indefinitely, wastes were regularly dumped in coastal and ocean seas.

National Geographic has provided some stunning figures to illustrate this contamination’s massive effect on the natural environment.

There are 5.25 trillion particles of discarded plastic. 269,000 tonnes of that material hover on the top, while the deep water is covered with 4 billion plastic microfibers every square kilometer.

What Causes Ocean Fills?

The answer to this is the lack of efficient disposal methods, negligence, and inexperience. We subject the world’s waterways to a broader range of contaminants yearly, including plastic waste, chemical runoff, crude oil, and more.

Here are some of the main reasons why the ocean is turning into another dumping ground:

1. Oil Spills

One of the significant causes of the ocean fills is the leakage and spilling of oil from shipments and offshore drilling rigs. Oil spills generally occur on a large scale because of accidents that release massive volumes of oil onto the ocean’s surface. They can also occur discreetly when oil tankers secretly leak small amounts of oil into the sea.

One such noteworthy instance is the Wakashio catastrophe. Over 50 whales and dolphins perished due to this tragedy, which also put the lives of several people who rely on fishing and tourism at risk. Ecosystems in the lagoons and coastline of Mauritius were also poisoned and devastated.

Another of the worst documented incidents of ocean dumping ever recorded in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, which led to the extinction of innumerable marine species.

2. Discharge from the Land

Runoff from the land, particularly from agricultural areas, is also one of the leading causes of ocean fills. Chemical fertilizers are widely used by farmers these days. The surplus from the same flows into the next watercourse, where it mixes with irrigation water and eventually drains into the ocean, polluting it.

3. Negligence and Insufficient Knowledge

Communities have always seen trash disposal in the water as either obligatory or relatively harmless. Long-held beliefs hold that throwing rubbish into the water dilutes and lessens the potency of the substances.

The idea is that inexperience and a lack of proper information on the effects of discharging garbage and other harmful chemicals into the ocean contribute to ocean dumping.

Communities have always seen trash disposal in the water as either obligatory or relatively harmless. The intensity of Ocean fills will keep rising as people continue to hold onto the notion that throwing rubbish into the water dilutes and lessens the potency of the substances.

4. Mercury

Mercury is one of the most regularly encountered heavy metals in wastewater and one of the most toxic ones.

The metallic, inorganic mercury is released into the environment from several industrial sources like – coal combustion and small-scale gold mining and later is converted by marine microorganisms into methylmercury, an organic form of mercury that is a potent neurotoxicant.

Research found that prenatal exposure to polluted seafood can result in IQ loss and severe developmental problems in unborn children. Mercury raises the risk of dementia and cardiovascular disease in adults. Because the human brain is still developing throughout these years, exposure to mercury later in childhood and during adolescence can potentially be harmful. Some people may be more susceptible to methylmercury because of genetic reasons.

Ocean Fills


Source: Lifecycle of methyl-mercury

5. Direct Dumping

Direct dumping is a common way for non-biodegradable goods to end up in the ocean. The Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch is a prime illustration of the harmful effects of direct plastic dumping into the ocean.

Waste from ground activities in North America and Asia makes up 80% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a garbage swirl that is double that of France and has been named a global environmental disaster.

Ocean Fills: Another Dumping Ground

Source: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Plastics not only affect the environment and threaten aquatic life, ecosystems, and food supplies, but they also have significant financial and social implications. The intensity of ocean fills affects how much it costs to clean up the shoreline and how much money is lost in the process.

Most widespread plastic waste polluting the oceans

Source: Most widespread plastic waste polluting the oceans

Studies predict that by 2025, the amount of plastic garbage entering the oceans will have increased by as much as 40% if waste management facilities on land are not upgraded. The difficulty of the task will increase. It is not easy to reverse the effects of marine contamination. It is estimated that 67 ships would be required to remove less than 1% of the trash in the North Pacific Ocean during a full year.

What Steps Can We Take To Address This Threat?

Due to the worldwide extent of ocean pollution, a coordinated strategy is necessary. All parties involved in finding a solution—including governments, scientists, politicians, the commercial sector, linked sectors, significant consumers of plastics and chemicals, and the general public—must take responsibility.

As the world’s water reserves are becoming more and more limited, it is imperative that we figure out how to stop ocean pollution.

But how can we halt ocean fills and prevent them from turning into yet another dumping ground?

The quick response is that we must stop it before it enters the water. Thus stopping it at the source is crucial. This calls for improving trash control on land, building on our expanding understanding of ocean pollution. Waste management, however, is insufficient. Systematic and coordinated solutions are required.

Let us examine some effective measures that governments and organizations can take to reduce pollution and promote a robust, productive, and healthy marine environment.

  • Reducing Plastic dependency
  • Increased charges and tariffs on plastics
  • Controlling and supervising industrial waste disposal
  • Raising public awareness
  • Increased funding for ocean pollution prevention
  • Avoiding or reducing the use of chemical fertilizers

While this is happening, implementing a “circular economy” strategy to recycle, reuse, and reduce trash will help stop land-based garbage from entering the seas. We can also recycle more, provide our time to help clean up beaches, and support initiatives that are coming up with novel solutions.


Also Read: Ocean Acidification: Effects On Flora And Fauna


  • Dr. Emily Greenfield

    Dr. Emily Greenfield is a highly accomplished environmentalist with over 30 years of experience in writing, reviewing, and publishing content on various environmental topics. Hailing from the United States, she has dedicated her career to raising awareness about environmental issues and promoting sustainable practices.

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