I think we’re all beginning to understand our impact on the environment and the importance of taking action on climate change. Between 4 and 12 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean each year, and that number continues to increase (Oceanic Society). We’ve all seen the depressing videos of turtles with straws stuck up their noses and heard about the garbage found in sharks’ stomachs. The magnitude and complexity of these problems can sometimes make you feel helpless, but finding small ways to reduce your carbon footprint each day can end up making a big difference. In recognition of World Oceans Day, here’s a list of 5 easy ways you can help reduce plastic pollution in the oceans.
This may be the most obvious one, but reducing your use of single-use plastic greatly reduces the amount of pollution that ends up in the oceans. Recently, plastic straws have received a lot of attention become the public enemy, but single use plastics also include plastic bags, water bottles, utensils, and take-out containers. Find alternatives to these products at shops like Package Free. Plastic Free sells various types of Zero Waste Kits, that include everything from water bottles and bamboo utensils to stainless steel straws and organic cotton produce bags.
Currently, just 9% of plastic is recycled worldwide (Oceanic Society). This should be a no-brainer, but make sure you recycle any plastics that can be recycled. This reduces the amount of new plastic in circulation. Keep in mind that you can also recycle other, more unconventional materials. Electronics, appliances, scrap metal, bubble wrap, and even styrofoam may be able to be recycled at a local recycling plants. For example, Eco-Cycle CHaRM: Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials in Boulder, Colorado collects unusual materials for recycling and reuse. Remember to try to reuse products before you recycle them. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
With each wash of your clothing, countless microfibers from synthetic textiles make their way into oceans and rivers. It’s not something you typically think about, but it’s one of the many ways the fashion industry negatively impacts the environment. One solution I’ve found is the Guppyfriend washing bag. This bag filters out the tiny microfibers released during the washing process and reduces fiber breakage..
Similar to microfibers, microbeads have become a growing source of ocean plastic pollution in recent years. Microbeads are found in some self-care products, including face scrubs, toothpastes, and body washes. Avoid products containing plastic microbeads by looking for “polythelene” and “polypropylene” on the ingredients labels of your cosmetic products (Oceanic Society). Learn more about the harmful effects of microbeads here.
Photographed by Tom Newton
Getting involved in your community may be one of the best ways to make an immediate positive impact. The Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup provides opportunities for you to volunteer for a clean up or start your own. You can help clean up the oceans in a less organized environment as well. Next time you’re at the beach or in a park, take a few minutes to pick up any trash you see.