Recycling and saying no to plastic bags and single use items is just part of the process
Most plastic pollution at sea starts out on land as litter on beaches, streets and sidewalks. Rain or overwatering flushes that litter through a storm drain system or directly to creeks, streams and rivers that lead to the ocean.
After plastics enter the marine environment they slowly photodegrade into smaller pieces that marine life can mistake for food, sometimes with fatal results. Ocean gyres concentrate plastic pollution in five main areas of the world’s oceans meanwhile various research groups are bringing back alarming data documenting plastics impacts.
Part of the problem is plastic itself. The very qualities that make it an adaptable and durable product to use, also make plastic an environmental nightmare. You see, plastics do not biodegrade. Instead they photodegrade – breaking down under exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays into smaller and smaller pieces.
Bottom line: with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated, virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form.
Here are ten easy things you can do to reduce your ‘plastic footprint’ and help keep plastics out of the marine environment:
-Choose to reuse when it comes to shopping bags and bottled water. Cloth bags and metal or glass reusable bottles are available locally at great prices.
-Refuse single-serving packaging, excess packaging, straws and other ‘disposable’ plastics. Carry reusable utensils in your purse, backpack or car to use at bbq’s, potlucks or take-out restaurants.
-Reduce everyday plastics such as sandwich bags and juice cartons by replacing them 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. A great way to reduce lids, plastic cups and/or plastic-lined cups.
-Go digital! No need for plastic CDs, DVDs and jewel cases when you can buy your music and videos online.
-Seek out alternatives to the plastic items that you rely on.
-Recycle. If you must use plastic, try to choose #1 (PETE) or #2 (HDPE), which are the most commonly recycled plastics. Avoid plastic bags and polystyrene foam as both typically have very low recycling rates.
-Volunteer at a beach cleanup. Surfrider Foundation Branches often hold cleanups monthly or more frequently.
-Support plastic bag bans, polystyrene foam bans and bottle recycling bills.
-Spread the word. Talk to your family and friends about why it is important to Rise Above Plastics!