Flip-flops and plastics

Litter these days usually means plastic -- from population centres, tourist spots, and ships. And litter is becoming a more and more serious problem in the coastal and marine environment. Why plastic? Because the bottles, containers and utensils made of plastic are only slowly biodegradable for the most part. Because most plastics are buoyant, too, the debris can be found far from human settlements, even in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. For example: hundreds of thousands of beach shoes have been found 1000 km west of Jakarta, Indonesia.
Solid wastes -- whether plastics or metal containers and cans -- can pose risks to human and animal health. But disfigured beaches can affect revenues from tourism -- and solid wastes present a particular problem of disposal for small island states. Both East Africa and the South Pacific have put solid wastes as second among their priority problems, second only to domestic sewage.
Litter in itself does not cause much environmental concern. It is disposal and its combination with other solid wastes that leads governments to give it high priority. The solutions are better management and awareness and incentive efforts to change behaviour. Is the expense worth it? UN specialists point out: " The economic benefits are often disproportionately high [..] due to the negative effects of litter on beach amenity and tourism."

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