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Plastic pollution is among the worst threats to our oceans, but somehow, 8 million pieces of plastic find their way into our ocean daily.
Preventing ocean pollution is extremely important, and it can happen by simply changing a few wasteful habits.
In this article, you can find 7 ideas on how to stop plastic pollution from getting into our oceans and a few statistics that might motivate you to avoid plastic.
Let’s jump right in.
Here are 7 solutions on how to prevent plastic pollution in the ocean:
1. Avoid the worst ocean plastic polluters
There are still way too many products are sold in single-use plastic packaging.
Even though some countries are banning certain single-use plastics, we can still do better.
You can do that by avoiding the most common & worst ocean polluters:
- Cigarette butts – if you are smoking, always dispose of them properly.
- Plastic food wrappers – Switch for reusable food wrappers, like wax wraps.
- Plastic straws, stirrers – Ditch them all together, or get a reusable straw.
- Plastic utensils – Get silverware from home, or get bamboo utensils.
- Plastic beverage bottles & bottle caps – Find plastic-free beverage alternatives.
- Plastic bags – Reuse them as much as you can, and then get reusable bags.
- Plastic lids – Avoid them by bringing reusable mugs.
- Cups & plates – Use reusable glass/stainless steel containers and cups.
You can easily avoid these by switching to plastic-free alternatives. Check my massive list of over 100 eco-friendly options for plastic items.
2. Reduce chemical pollutants
A lot of the detergents you use daily can have adverse effects on you and our oceans. Some ingredients can cause a lot of damage, such as:
- Phosphates -- Common additives in laundry and dishwashing detergents to soften the hard water. They have low toxicity, cause nutrient pollution, and are harmful to algae (1). Phosphate residues on dish surfaces may cause nausea, diarrhea, and skin irritations. (1)
- Surfactant – Commonly used in detergents for cleansing, wetting agents, foaming agents for shampoos, emulsifiers in creams, conditioning agents in skin and hair-care products, solubilizers for perfumes. Prolonged exposure to surfactants can irritate and damage the skin, and high concentrations represent an environmental risk.
Detergents enter into water mainly through sewage. Additionally, when it rains, those chemicals are also washed in rivers and then entering the ocean.
When you dispose of chemicals Improperly, this pollutes marine life and kills sea mammals, corals, and fish. What you can do to avoid that is:
- Take hazardous waste to collection locations – Never pour household products such as cleansers, beauty products, medicines, auto fluids, paint, and garden products down the drain.
- Switch to toxic-free detergents – Look for cleaning & laundry products with natural ingredients, such as Meliora Laundry Powder. It contains – Baking soda, washing soda, vegetable soap, and essential oils. Simple, right?
- Switch to eco-friendly toothpaste – Get tooth tablets or toothpaste, that is natural & plastic-free, or DIY this simple tooth powder.
- Use natural hair products – To avoid more toxic chemicals that can harm you & the ocean, start using eco-friendly shampoo alternatives.
- Ditch commercial sunscreens – Chemicals found in sunscreen threaten the health of marine life and coral reefs. Check my article to find 16 natural and coral-safe sunscreens.
3. Avoid products that contain microbeads
Microbeads are solid, tiny pieces of plastic. They are used in personal care and cleaning products because of their exfoliant properties, bulking agents, shelf-life, etc.
You can find them in products like:
- Facial cleansers
- Body wash
Microbeads can’t get captured by most wastewater treatment systems, so they often end up in our rivers, lakes, and oceans.
They cause plastic particle water pollution and harm marine life, the environment, and our health, because of their ability to adsorb toxins. (1)
Some products contain plastic as ingredients (microbeads), which is the equivalent of their plastic packaging! (1) Yikes.
The easiest way to avoid microbeads in your products is to switch to natural & zero waste personal care products.
4. Avoid synthetic clothing
Every time you wash synthetic clothes, hundreds of microplastic are released.
Once the fibers are shredded, they are discharged in sewage water.
Microfibres can absorb chemicals present in the water or sewage sludge, and they can also contain chemical additives from the manufacturing phases.
Once the microfibers reach the oceans, they are ingested by marine animals, causing various physical injuries and negative impacts. (1)
To reduce the discharge of microplastics from synthetic clothing, you can:
- Avoid buying more synthetic clothing made of polyester, polyethylene, acrylic, or elastane.
- Use laundry balls or a microfiber bag in the washing machine, designed to capture the microplastics.
5. Reduce, reuse, recycle plastics
While it is almost impossible to avoid all plastic in our lives, you can reuse and upcycle various plastic containers in many ways.
Upcycling is the process of transforming waste material into something more valuable and useful.
In that way, you will get more of an item instead of throwing it away as soon you are done using it. Here are a few ideas for what you can do with plastic containers.
It is best to focus on reducing and reusing first because plastic is hard to recycle, and not all of it is recyclable.
However, for all plastic items that you can’t reuse, make sure to recycle them.
If you are unsure whether you can recycle something, check your local recycling guidelines.
6. Organize or participate in beach cleanups
By participating in such cleanups, you set an excellent example for others and prevent plastic pollution from entering the oceans.
Organizing a beach cleanup can be tricky. To make it easier, follow these guidelines:
- Identify a cleaning location, and visit the place before the cleanup.
- Gather supplies, like containers for picking the trash.
- Contact your local municipality for donations, like drinks, food, and supplies.
- Plan how to handle the recyclables and hazardous waste.
- Find volunteers by creating an (online) event and spread it around.
Although it might take some time, organizing a beach cleanup is worth it.
7. Support ocean organizations
There are many great organizations work on cleaning up the oceans and rivers.
There are several ways we can help them:
- You can volunteer or join
- Make a donation
- Purchase their merchandise
- Show support on social media and spread the word
Do your research to find such organizations, but a few great ones that I know are:
- The Ocean Cleanup
- Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
- 4 Ocean
- Sign petitions on Change.org on ocean pollution
“Fun” facts about plastic pollution in the ocean:
- Between 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tons of plastic waste enter the ocean each year. (1)
- There is an “island of microplastics” floating in the Pacific Ocean. The area is twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France. (1)
- Just 10 rivers alone carry more than 90% of the plastic waste in the oceans. (1)
- If current trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050. (1)
- Over 90% of all seabirds have plastic in their stomachs. (1)
- A single clothes wash can produce around 700,000 microplastic fibers. (1)
- More than two-thirds of the world’s fish stocks are suffering from plastic ingestion. (1)
- The average person might be digesting around 2,000 pieces of microplastic per week, which is the equivalent of the weight of a payment card. This adds up to 21g a month. (1)
What is the most common plastic in the ocean?
The most common plastic in the ocean for 2020 is cigarette butts, plastic beverage bottles, and food wrappers.
How is plastic pollution affecting the ocean?
Over 1 million mammals, fish, sharks, turtles, and birds are killed each year due to plastic trash in the ocean.
Marine animals ingest plastic, which often leads to suffocation, gradual poisoning, or dying from starvation due to intestinal blockage.
Marine species are also entangled by plastic trash, which causes severe injuries and deaths.
Approximate estimation is that annually, human’s uptake of microplastics from seafood is around 53,864 particles. (based on global consumption estimate)
How to prevent plastic pollution in the oceans?
Focus on your actions – start reducing single-use plastics, toxic detergents, synthetic clothing, etc.
Next, you can encourage others to refuse, reuse and recycle plastic and reduce plastic pollution in the oceans.
Finally, you can support plastic ban legislations & petitions that support ocean cleaning organizations.
There are hundreds of petitions on Change.org on ocean pollution, so consider signing some of them.
Can plastic be removed from oceans?
It may seem impossible; however, with the latest technology, we can turn things around.
For example, The Ocean Cleanup is developing cleanup systems that can clean up floating plastics. Their goal is to remove 90% of plastic from the water!
Our oceans are extremely polluted, and it is essential to act and prevent things from getting worse.
While many global organizations are working on developing systems to clean the oceans, they need all the support they can get.
As individuals, we can find ways to protecting our oceans and polluting less.
Are there more ways to prevent plastic ocean pollution? Share in the comments below!