It’s no secret that we have a pollution problem. Trillions, yes TRILLIONS, of pounds of waste are produced worldwide each year. Much of that trash finds its way into waterways and oceans. Currently, there are over 150 million tons of plastic waste in the ocean. Luckily, there are alternatives to single-use items that pollute our oceans.
Cigarette butts are by far the number one polluter in oceans. Cigarette butts leak nicotine, chemicals, and other toxins into the water putting all marine life in harm’s way. In an International Ocean Cleanup hosted by Ocean Conservancy in 2017, almost 2.5 million cigarette butts were picked up from beaches and waterways.
The easy solution here would be to tell every cigarette smoker to quit smoking. This would put them at less of a risk of disease and cancer, as well as put an end to cigarette pollution. However, this will more than likely never happen. Instead, smokers should try rolling their own filterless cigarettes with organic hemp papers and loose tobacco. Not only will this help the environment, but it also is cheaper than buying cigarettes at the prices they are today.
The next most populous garbage in oceans is food wrappers and containers. This can include candy wrappers, to-go containers (plastic and styrofoam), and chip bags among other prepackaged food. In the 2017 International Ocean Cleanup, 1.7 million wrappers and over 1 million to-go containers were collected and removed from the oceans.
Everyone needs to eat, but we also need to care for mother nature. Here are some tips to reduce your wrapper and container waste:
Purchase a set of glass food containers to bring when you eat out (or use Tupperware you already have!)
Turn a chip bag into a purse, or use any of these ideas to repurpose chip bags and candy wrappers
As hard as it may be, try reducing the number of prepackaged snacks you purchase and make your own instead
Plastic Bottles and Caps
1.6 million plastic bottles and 1.1 plastic caps were removed from oceans in 2017. If we continue to use plastic the way that we do, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Animals may mistake bottles and caps for food and end up ingesting them causing them to choke or not get proper nutrients.
It’s easier than you may think to reduce your plastic waste:
Buying a reusable water bottle is the easiest way to reduce your plastic waste, and many restaurants and cafes will allow you to use your own bottle or cup for beverages
Start buying glass bottle condiments
Only about 9% of plastic actually gets recycled in the United States. Learn how to recycle items properly and contact your local recycling companies for more information!
Plastic grocery bags accounted for over 750,000 items collected in 2017, and other plastic bags accounted for just under 750,000. Plastic bags are another item that is commonly mistaken for food by marine life. Underwater, plastic bags look strikingly similar to jellyfish, a staple in sea turtles’ diets. Plastic bags are also a choking hazard to marine life, causing fish, birds, and marine mammals to suffocate.
Most grocery stores sell reusable bags for only a dollar, buying a few could save a life. If you're only buying a few things and don't have a reusable bag, skip the plastic bag and carry your purchases. Reusable Ziploc and freezer bags are becoming more accessible and can be found at Target and Walmart.
Do What You Can
Sometimes using plastic or single-use items are inevitable, nobody is perfect. But if everyone did the most they could at taking care of the planet and producing less waste, we can have healthy oceans for generations to come. Do what you can and inspire those around you to do the same!