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Debris on the beach of Kanapou Bay, Kaho‘olawe, Hawaii. (Photo Credit: NOAA)

Debris on the beach of Kanapou Bay, Kaho‘olawe, Hawaii. (Photo Credit: NOAA)

Written by Emily Logan, Director of Acquisition and Retention at Care2

At some level, we are all ocean lovers, so it’s heartbreaking to realize that plastic pollution kills one million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals each year in our seas.

How do we stop that? Your daily actions can make a difference. Here are five steps to ensure that you are not contributing to plastic pollution in the ocean.

1) Start By Measuring Your “Plastic Footprint”

Keep a personal plastic use diary and note every product you use in a day or a week that’s plastic or packaged in plastic. You’ll be surprised! Once you know your baseline, you can set specific goals to reduce or eliminate your plastic waste generation.

One easy way to get started is to go digital: for example, there is no need for plastic CDs, DVDs and jewel cases when you can buy your music and videos online. Spread the word. Talk to your family and friends about why it is important to reduce plastic in our lives and the nasty impacts of plastic pollution, and get ideas from them about creative ways to cut out plastic. Remember: with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated (which has its own environmental issues), virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form.

2) Cut Disposable Plastics Out of Your Life

Plastic often begins its journey to the ocean when people litter or the wind blows trash out of a garbage can and into a storm drain. From there, it travels through sewer pipes, into waterways, and finally it reaches the ocean. You can prevent this by never using those disposable plastics in the first place.

Replace sandwich bags and juice cartons with a reusable lunch bag/box that includes a Thermos.

Bring your to-go mug with you to the coffee shop, smoothie shop or restaurants that let you use them, which is a great way to eliminate lids, plastic cups and/or plastic-lined cups from your life.

Seek out alternatives to the plastic items that you rely on. Simple options include bringing your own bag to the store and never using those thin plastic bags. Your produce doesn’t need them. Refuse single-serving packaging, excess packaging, straws and other “disposable” plastics.

Image Credit: 5Gyres

Image Credit: 5Gyres

3) If You Must Use Plastic Products, Reuse Them.

Fifty percent of the plastic in our lives is used once and thrown away. That’s just crazy! Carry reusable utensils in your purse, backpack or car to use at cookouts, potlucks or take-out restaurants. Carry a reusable water bottle and store food in non-disposable containers. Once you have reused a plastic bottle as much as you can, then at least be sure to recycle it. If you must use plastic, be sure to choose #1 (PETE) or #2 (HDPE), which are the most commonly recycled plastics.

4) Take the Pledge to Boycott Products With Microbeads

Cosmetics companies have flooded hundreds of products (mostly facial scrubs but also shampoo, toothpaste and lip gloss) with microbeads: tiny balls of plastic used to exfoliate our skin. One tube of facial scrub contains more than 300,000 plastic microbeads.When you wash off those tiny pieces of plastic, they go down the drain, pass unfiltered through sewage treatment plants into our rivers and lakes, and enter the ocean. Once there, they soak up environmental pollutants like DDT before unsuspecting fish gobble them up, to be eaten by other fish or by us humans. The microbeads used in personal care products are mainly composed of polyethylene and polypropylene, so check the labels to make sure you are never buying microbeads.

5) Take Care of the Beach

Some plastic pollution gets into the ocean via the beach or a boat. You can be sure you will never contaminate the ocean with plastic by always cleaning up after yourself, whether you enjoy diving, surfing, or just relaxing on the beach. If you’re on a boat, never allow any plastic bags, straws, or cups to go overboard. Go even further by encouraging others to respect the marine environment or by participating in local beach cleanups.

Get started today!

(This article originally appeared on 5 Gyres. It has been reprinted here with permission.)

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3 Responses

  1. L.Schade says:

    I am trying everyday to live without plastic and I am getting better all the time .

  2. Great article. A consumer boycott is the only real answer. I have been living plastic less for years now and have sourced a load of plastic free products. You can find them here http://www.plasticisrubbish.com

  3. Michele says:

    We eliminate as much plastic as we can from our daily lives and recycle what we do use. I just wish there was a way that plastic lids and straws for cups to be recycled ~ I see people walk around with their drinks and all of those straws are ending up in the garbage somewhere. It is truly said to know that thousands of them are pushed out through fast food restaurants and gas stations daily.

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