Mission Blue recently conducted a poll of its supporters and allies, asking us what we think is the most pressing ocean issue: An overwhelming majority said “Ocean Plastic.” Coincidentally, last week at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali (Feb 20-24, 2017), the United Nations Environment Program announced the #CleanSeas campaign, an unprecedented call-to-action for governments to enact policies that curb ocean plastic debris, and encourage industry and consumers to reduce their plastic consumption. See: Our Plastic Ocean. Plus see our Action Agenda to Clean-Up Our Ocean, a list of actions that you can do supplied by the National wildlife Refuge System.
The Big Offenders
There is no doubt, plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats to our ocean with an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic entering the ocean each year. Some of the worst ocean plastic offenders are single use plastics (bags, cutlery, wrap, cups, straws, bottles, see: Sailing Through the Garbage Patch Sea and a Tasty Alternative.) And plastic microbeads found in personal hygiene products (facial scrubs and toothpastes) (photo – Rick Carey Shutterstock)
5 Gyres of Ocean Plastic
Ocean Plastic debris can be found floating in five immense swirling gyres in the Indian Ocean, and the north and south Atlantic AND Pacific oceans. But these massive floating islands of plastic represent only 5% of ocean plastic debris – the other 95% is submerged. Learn more in our post: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Plastic degrades into billions of tiny pieces of plastic – called micro-plastic – that enters the food chain. Microplastics have been found in plankton, turtles, birds and whales, and are being ingested by us in the seafood we eat. (see: If You Love Seafood You Might Not Want to Read This) What makes things worse is that microplastics can absorb toxic chemicals found in surrounding water, like pesticides, heavy metals and PCB’s. (see: Polluting Plastics Ban: Good News from Davos).
Challenge Yourself: Live Plastic-free as Possible
Cutting our daily consumption of plastic is a big step in the right direction to stop plastic from entering the ocean. Recycling and expanding recycling plants are one of many approaches to stem the tide of plastics entering the ocean. Legislation is slowly being put in place to reduce and in eliminate the use of microbeads, (see: Stiv Wilson and Microbeads) single use bags and take-out containers. Infrastructure must be a priority, to improve waste collection, recycling and encouraging alternative options to ocean plastic pollution.
10 Things You Can do Right Now to Stop the Flow of Ocean Plastic
- Use your own reusable grocery bags. Say no to single-use plastic bags.
- Use your own water bottle; It’s cheaper and healthier.
- Bring your own thermos to the coffee shop. Avoid disposable single serve coffee pods.
- Say no to plastic straws and disposable cups.
- Place a lid or a plate on leftovers instead of using plastic wrap. Try reusable beeswax coated food wrap.
- Ditch the disposable razor, diaper, plastic storage bags etc. We have alternatives!
- Buy in bulk and look for products with less packaging.
- Eat less take-out – specifically takeout that is wrapped in plastic or styrofoam (which is plastic!)
- Pack your lunch in reusable containers. Don’t forget your own reusable cutlery.
- Pick up litter – even if it isn’t yours! Don’t let it get into the watershed. Participate in beach clean-ups, or organize your own community clean-up.
Taking Responsibility for Ocean Plastic
We must transfer from a throw-away society to a circular economy where plastics – a valuable resource – are recovered and reused. Ocean plastic pollution is solvable but requires all of us to make conscious choices that protect our seas from ocean plastic debris. See : In the Swim with Plastics Recovered from the Sea.
How To Get More Ocean-Hearted Intel Delivered To Your Inbox!
We believe ocean lovers can change the world. If you care about the health of the ocean and want to do something about it, then connect with the Blue Ocean tribe: Our growing community of ocean change-makers is turning ocean lovers into ocean leaders. It starts with you. Join us!