Plastic Trash Prevention

Plastic Pollution Affects All of Us
Look closely as you walk or bike or drive down the street. From cities to suburbs, small towns to seashores, plastic bottles, bags and packaging litter our landscape, flowing into storm drains and watersheds. Ultimately, an estimated 8.8 million tons of plastic trash enters the ocean every year — but that number is reportedly on course to double by 2025. As you can see in the video above from NBC Nightly News, the scope is global.

Why Is It a Problem?
You probably don’t grind pieces of plastic into your morning coffee. You probably don’t add plastic bits to your dog food or cat food. And you probably don’t let your pet parakeet nibble on plastic straws.

Why? Because consuming plastics can be fatal, both to humans and other creatures. Most plastics were not made to be ingested and generally cannot be digested. They’re made from chemicals that you would never deliberately eat or drink, much less feed to other animals.

We All Make Choices
So, why do you and I force fish and other marine life to dine on plastic trash? Well, probably because we don’t really mean to do it.
Plastic bottle on beach

We get careless. We walk away and forget that bottle of water we put next to our foot at the bus bench. We don’t cover our recycling bin on a windy day. Sometimes, we just don’t think.

Everyone Can Help
Cutting the flow of plastic trash doesn't take an international treaty, or billions of dollars in R&D spending, or even an inconvenient Al Gore documentary (although all of that might indeed help).

You and I simply need to pick up our plastic.

Better still, you and I can take a few moments each day or each week to pick up plastic trash that others have left behind — and drop it in a recycling container.

Wait, It’s Really that Simple?
Yes — and no. The bigger problem won’t be solved so easily. All the plastic trash that’s entered the world’s oceans will remain a harmful pollutant for a long, long time. A lot of smart people around the globe are studying the problem and working on ways to address the enormous volume of plastic trash in the sea. We’ll follow some of those efforts via our Pick Up Your Plastic blog (coming soon) and on Twitter (@PickUpUrPlastic).

Start Small
You and I can directly and personally slow the flow of trash into watersheds and other ecosystems. Start at your feet, then expand to your street. This simple action will make a big difference. Plastic isn’t fish food. So, let’s pick it up!

If you want to connect with organized cleanup efforts, just Google 'trash cleanup' + your community or state to find local programs. In the Washington, D.C., region where I'm located, the Alice Ferguson Foundation plays a lead role in educating people about trash and coordinating cleanup efforts. They run the Potomac River Watershed Cleanup every April.

Changing public policy can also help prevent pollution and increase recycling. Trash Free Maryland, for example, has been working hard to persuade state lawmakers to ban the use of foam containers.

Interested in joining forces? Email me at mark {at} pickupyourplastic {dot} org.