Plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats to the ocean ecosystems. Last year, a study estimated that approximately 8 million metric tonnes of plastic enter the ocean from the land every year. The statistics on plastic bags alone are jaw-dropping. Worldwide, 1 million bags are used every minute. A plastic bag has an average ‘life’ of 15 minutes before it becomes waste, and takes 1,000 years to decompose.
A large portion of these discarded plastic bags will eventually make their way into the ocean. These, and other plastics, then become deadly traps for marine life and potent pollutants for the ocean itself. A polluted ocean also directly affects our health, as the toxins in contaminated water work their way up the marine food chain and back onto our plates.
Plastic’s impact on the ocean is vast, devastating and relentless. Our oceans produce 70% of the oxygen we breathe, absorb 30% of the Co2 we produce, and contain 97% of the Earth’s water supply.
It’s crucial that we repair our relationship with the ocean before it’s too late. Below are 9 simple, yet directly effective ways you can reduce your personal contribution to ocean plastics, and become part of the change.
Reduce Your Use of Single-Use Plastics
Of the 300 million tonnes of plastic produced worldwide each year, half is single-use. This includes plastic bags, straws, water bottles, cutlery, take-out containers, dry cleaning bags and disposable cups. The most direct way you can help curb ocean plastics is by reducing your personal use of these single-use plastics. The best way to do this is to carry your own re-usable versions of these products, like reusable grocery bags, stainless steel straws, coffee ‘keep’ cups or reusable water bottles.
Next time you’re out and you’re offered a single use plastic item, just ask yourself if you really need it or if you could make do without. Head to www.onyalife.com to get your own eco-friendly, reusable utensils, bags, cups and even sandwich wraps.
When you DO use single-use (and other) plastics, make sure to recycle them where possible. This helps keep them out of the ocean and reduces the production of “new” plastic. If you need help finding a place to recycle plastic near you, check Earth911’s recycling directory for North America.
Buy in Bulk
By buying your food and home supplies in bulk, you can cut down on plastic packaging, and store things in jars or reusable bags. Buying in bulk will mean less trips to the grocery store, which means less energy consumed. It often works out cheaper too.
Choose Non-Synthetic Fabrics Where Possible
It has been found that micro plastics can get washed out of synthetic clothing (fabrics such as polyester or acrylic) and inevitably end up in the ocean. In a paper published in 2016, it was said that one washing machine cycle could release more than 700,000 micro plastic fibres into the environment. Instead, opt for natural fabrics like organic cotton, wool or flax where possible.
Tiny plastic particles, called ‘microbeads’ are found in exfoliant face scrubs, toothpastes and body washes, and have become a major contributor to ocean plastics. They wash down our drains and enter the ocean through our sewer systems, negatively impacting hundreds of marine species.
Be aware of what’s in your products, and avoid the ones containing Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) or Nylon (PA). Head to beatthemicrobead.org for a list of products that contain microbeads.
Be Aware of What Goes Down Your Drains
No matter where you live, the water and anything else that goes down your drain could end up in the ocean. Be careful when choosing cleaning products for your home, laundry or car, and choose eco-friendly alternatives when possible. Many household chores can be done effectively with non toxic ingredients like vinegar or baking soda. For example, check out thesimplyco.com or ecos.com to find earth-friendly, conscious and organic cleaning products.
Support Plastic Bans
Many governments and councils around the globe have enacted bans on single use plastic bags, takeout containers and plastic bottles. You can help make this happen in your own community by making your government or council aware of your support. Plasticbaglaws.org is an online resource for legislative bodies considering laws limiting the use of plastic bags. The site has useful links where you can learn more and find out how to get involved.
Get Involved in a Beach or River Cleanup
Get hands on and help remove the plastics from our oceans, or stop new plastics from getting to the water, by participating in a beach or river clean up. Join a local organization’s cleanup or organize your own with your friends and family.
Spread the Word
Finally, it’s important to stay up to date and informed on the issues related to plastics pollution and other threats to our ocean ecosystems. This way you can accurately spread the word and make others aware of the problem. Tell your friends and family about how they can be part of the solution and take action today.
Head to www.plasticoceans.org to watch their documentary on ocean plastics.
Cover photo: SILKE STUCKENBROCK.