Compared to the vastness of the ocean, our actions on land might seem inconsequential. But the truth is that over time, our cumulative decisions have a tremendous impact on marine life and the ocean’s health. Solving the problem of global plastic pollution starts locally with the things we can do every day to improve our own lives and our environment.
Step one: Avoid plastic packaging.
Plastic is light and durable, making it the common container for nearly everything. It’s so common in fact that Americans discard over 35 billion plastic bottles every year! However, 33% of all plastics escape collection systems and find their way into the environment. That’s a lot of plastic! Once in the ocean, plastics are circulated in large currents, called gyres, where they are further broken down by salt and sunlight into smaller pieces. These micro-plastics create a toxic smog that moves up the food chain as it is ingested by wildlife, contaminating our food supply and disrupting the health of marine ecosystems.
Thankfully, there are packaging alternatives. Glass, for example, is infinitely recyclable and doesn’t contain any of the harmful chemicals associated with plastics, and imparts no unwanted scents or flavors. You can also re-use glass bottles as many times as you like, reducing waste and improving your health. So next time, choose products made in glass instead of plastic.
Step two: Say no to straws.
Restaurants, bars, fast food joints. Seems like every time you order a drink, it comes with a straw. But what happens to that straw after you use it? Well, it goes in the trash, and since they are usually made of plastic, you guessed it, straight to the ocean. Straws are particularly harmful because of their small size, making them harder to collect and easier for wildlife to mistake as a food source. Accordingly, straws are one of the most common items discovered in plastic pollution.
The silver lining is that straws don’t have to be harmful at all. There are paper alternatives out there that don’t pose an environmental threat. Furthermore, refusing plastic straws next time you order a drink is simple. Just ask the server to skip the straw when they bring your beverage, drink from the cup, and "cheers" to reducing needless plastic pollution!
Step three: Share the word.
Most people want the planet to be clean and free of harmful pollution, but don’t make the connection between their daily actions and marine life. Next time someone asks you why you chose a glass container, or refused a straw, it’s easy to explain how your simple choice can make a big impact, and theirs can too. Reducing pollution starts with raising consciousness.
Making smarter choices for the environment doesn’t mean sacrificing quality of convenience. Quite the contrary. There are a growing movement of companies that embrace a healthy approach to the products and packaging they utilize. Next time ask yourself "is this better for my body and better for the ocean?". If the answer is yes, then go for it!