CREDO Tips: Ocean Plastic Problem: 5 Ways You Can Help Stop It

Illustration of a crying whale swimming in an Ocean full of plastic

Last month, a 1,110-pound whale washed up on a beach in the Philippines with 88 pounds of plastic inside its body. A few weeks later, a pregnant sperm whale was found dead off the coast of Sardinia, Italy, with nearly 50 pounds of plastic crowding two-thirds of its stomach.

These tragic events highlight the mounting issue of unchecked plastic garbage polluting our oceans and its effects on wildlife, our environment, and the climate.

So what can we do to stop the billions of pounds of plastics being dumped in oceans each year? Here’s some background and five ways you can take action.

How does plastic get into the ocean in the first place?

Twenty percent of ocean plastic comes from ships and offshore platforms. The rest is a mix of garbage dumping – nearly 8 million metric tons of plastics are dumped into the ocean every year – and litter blown into the sea.

Because plastic isn’t biodegradable, it instead breaks down into tiny particles called microplastics that fish can eat.

Plastic pollution in our oceans is so vast that, at the current rates, plastic will outweigh fish by 2050. Here’s a good explainer from Vox.

5 Ways You Can Help Stop the Ocean Plastic Problem

Here are five things you can do to help slow the ocean plastic pollution problem:

Contact your elected officials

Urge your elected officials at the local, state, and federal level to support a ban or tax on disposable, single-use plastic. You can find your elected officials here.

Put public pressure on corporations

List of top 10 brands contributing to Ocean Plastics

Consumer pressure on corporate polluters and brands that encourage disposable plastic works. CREDO members, along with our allies, successfully pressured Starbucks to create a 100% recyclable cup. Take action, like signing petitions, making calls and using social media to pressure corporations to stop the plastic pollution problem.

Make the climate connection

Plastic is derived from chemicals in fossil fuels which makes it a source of climate emissions and pollution. And the fossil fuel industry depends on plastic production for a chunk of its climate-destroying revenue. In fact, the fossil fuel industry is set to triple plastic exports by 2030. The more we understand where plastics come from – and why they are so cheap and readily available – the better we can fight back.

Attend town halls and debates

With the 2020 election season heating up, you can attend town halls and debates to ask local candidates – maybe even presidential nominees – to release their plan for cleaning up the ocean plastic problem and tackling the climate crisis. In fact, you can sign our petition urging the Democratic National Committee to hold a Democratic 2020 presidential primary debate focused on climate action here.

Stop using single-use plastics

While much of the ocean plastic problem must be solved by governments and corporations making drastic changes to policies and regulations and how business is conducted, we can all do our part by changing our behavior and reducing our use of plastic water bottles, straws, bags, and other single-use plastics. Here are nine ways to cut down your use of plastics.