Trouble In Paradise–Too Much Plastic In Our Oceans

Trouble In Paradise–Too Much Plastic In Our Oceans

8:17pm Mar 26, 2015
This photo was taken this month on the beach of Long Caye, an island 47 miles off the coast of Belize. Each day, those who live there find new plastic bottles and other items that pollute their beaches.
Justin Catanoso

A remote tropical island in the Caribbean and the Yadkin River may seem like worlds apart. But in his column this week in the Triad Business Journal, WFDD contributor Justin Catanoso writes that those watery entities are connected in ways we hardly realize.

“If you think about the pollution in our oceans, the problem actually starts in places like Winston-Salem,” says Catanoso. “So look at it this way–the Yadkin River is a huge pump and whatever gets pumped into it gets pumped down river and eventually flows into the oceans and gets circulated around the world.”

Catanoso took a closer look at the issue of plastic pollution in North Carolina’s rivers and oceans when he visited Central America recently.

Over spring break this month, Catanoso joined a group of Wake Forest University students and faculty in a coral ecology class on a tropical island located about 50 miles off the coast of Belize, just below Mexico. The island is called Long Caye.

“It’s gorgeous – all coconut palms and mangroves. And it sits on the second largest coral reef in the world. The beauty underwater is staggering. But on Long Caye’s beaches, it’s another story. Plastic in the form of water and shampoo bottles, toys and shoes continued to wash up on shore.”

According to the EPA, more than 32 million tons of plastic waste is produced nationally each year, and less than 10 percent is recycled.

Catanoso says in Forsyth County, efforts to recycle are working. Winston-Salem’s recycling facility for Waste Management estimates that up to 90 percent of city residents use their recycling bins. The plant processes more than 200 tons of plastic a month, from milk jugs to water bottles, and the amount is rising.

"I think the first thing is understanding that when it comes to the environment, our actions here have an impact just about everywhere else. That’s when you realize that how you answer the question ‘paper or plastic’ can make a difference. So can buying a Brita filter instead of a case of bottled water," says Catanoso.

The Business Report on 88.5 WFDD is a partnership with the Triad Business Journal. You'll find Justin Catanoso's column and more breaking business news at Triad.Bizjournals.com.

Justin Catanoso is director of the Journalism program at Wake Forest University and a regular contributor to 88.5 WFDD.

Follow Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

Support your
public radio station