Trash and single-use plastics are an issue in and out of the ocean. While on land you may be able to pick it up and toss it in a trash can but even this trash may go to landfills and get into the ocean, the problem is getting worse every day.
The problem is that when you are out diving it is hard to pick up the trash and help out with the issue as you have no place to put it.
To help solve this issue scuba divers usually carry a mesh bag or have pockets on them to put some trash. These can fill up fast, get caught on things, and even lead you to drop things. I will go over some options on what are the best diving bags out there and how to run a dive clean-up responsibility.
Why Carry a Trashbag While Scuba Diving?
Ocean trash is a very serious problem it threatens wildlife and the oceans for future generations. According to National Geographic, “There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean.
Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea.” Most of the trash is from land-based sources and is a problem created by humans.
While these numbers are huge, taking out plastic is a start and brings the issue to the forefront. When scuba divers clean and pick up trash along the way it makes a difference.
The positive effects range from people being educated to fewer microplastics getting into the oceans to animals not dying. So let’s help you find a bag for you to help out the world.
Types of Debris Bags
There are a lot of different types of bag one can use to clean up debris underwater. You may not know this but some bags are not as good for the environment as others and may add things like microplastics.
I will go over which are better than others and our personal favorite at OtterAquatics.
You will see these as the most commonly used bag. They are cheap and you can buy them almost anywhere.
Mesh bags usually have a drawstring to close the top so the trash doesn’t escape. The major issues here are drag as you are towing it, it can get caught on things, and a lot actually release microplastics.
If you choose cotton they are more eco-friendly but breaks down from salt and the sun, they take longer to dry.
Fish or Lobster Bag
These bags tend to be sturdier than standard mesh bags. They are made to hold live creatures so the top closes differently and is more secure. They often have a way to clip it onto you so it creates less drag than holding it the whole time. The price will be higher, as you get what you pay for with diving equipment.
Ocean Cleanup Bags
These bags are specifically created for divers to clean up trash in the ocean.
There used to be more out there from companies like Fourth Element and Mares, but for some reason, they stopped making them. These bags will vary in how they work from company to company and some are better than others.
The two major companies that make these and that I have seen out diving are Trshbg and 4Ocean.
This is my personal favorite bag that I see most scuba divers, freedivers and surfers use. The Trshbg hip bag is a bag that is available in two different sizes and is made from recycled materials such as plastics and scooter tubes. By having this bag every time you dive you can turn your dive into a clean-up.
The sustainable clean-up bag doesn’t create much drag and is easy to use as it fits divers of all sizes. Here are some details about it below.
- Ergonomically designed so it is streamlined and efficient
- Keeps trash in place and doesn’t escape.
- Universal fit for both legs with adjustable clip-on straps
- Expands and has a zipper for easy emptying
- Made from upcycled materials
- Handmade in Indonesia
- No two designs are the same – you are truly buying a bespoke, unique bag
- Dries quick
Tips for an Ocean Cleanup
Before even cleaning waste up think about your single-use, reducing your waste, and reusing things. That being said you can become part of the solution and clean up the trash on your dive or as an activity. If you do a beach and ocean cleanup here are some tips and things to consider for you and your participants.
Know the Dive Site
or underwater cleanup, you want to learn as much as you can about the marine environment and marine life before you get in the water. Make sure to give or attend a dive briefing and ask questions if need be.
Also, gauge how easy it is to get in and out of the water, you will be caring trash with you.
Wear Protective Equipment
Take Your Time
This is not a race and should be done slowly and thoroughly. When you move slowly and carefully you will conserve air, kick up less sand or silt and be able to find more things.
Maintain Neutral Buoyancy
This is for all dives but is even more important for cleaning up the sea. You will need to take into consideration that your buoyancy will change during an underwater cleanup as you will use more air and then pick up trash that has weight. This will also make you unbalanced a bit depending on how you distribute the weight.
Touch Only Trash
Only touch and or move the trash, you don’t want to hurt any marine life while collecting any garbage.
Attach all equipment, be streamlined, and tuck gauges
Assess the Enviornment
A big swell or currents can make it an issue to dive in. If this happens try to reschedule the cleanup.
Secure the Trashbag
Make sure you’re not damaging the marine environment by allowing your rubbish bag to touch or drag along the bottom. Ensure you’re carrying the bag clear of the reef and nothing is trailing or dragging.
Dive in a head-down position
This will help you avoid stirring the sediment or contacting the bottom with your fins.
Work in Buddy Teams
Use a lift bag if needed
You may find heavy items, tires are a big one. If items are too large or heavy either get a lift bag or let it go. You may cause more damage trying to get it out or hurt yourself trying to lift it.
Know What to Remove
Sea animals consume plastic bags as their normal food and can die from ingesting it or even suffocate. Remove all non-biodegradable items, plastic, clothing, bags, fishing gear, cigarettes, bottles, cans, etc.
What You Should Leave
Check all trash before you touch and remove it, sometimes creatures are living inside and it should be left. If you can cut open cans first that is also a good idea. Leave behind- glass bottles that have algae or corals growing, anything stuck in corals, things overgrown with marine life, etc.
Go Through Trash When Done
Find a place to empty the trash bags near the water so if you find any creatures you can return them quickly.