Turning the tide on ocean plastics

2017 has been a promising year in the fight against ocean plastic pollution. We’ve seen positive changes across all levels of society. From individuals protesting to their local authorities to organisations replacing single-use plastic with eco-friendly alternatives. Here are a few highlights from this year to get you inspired for 2018.

Strawless in Seattle

Research team members extract a plastic straw lodged in a sea turtle’s nostril (source: YouTube).

Straws are one of the worst offenders when it comes to plastic waste. Some of you may recall a viral YouTube video back in 2015 when a research team came across a sea turtle that had a 10-12 cm plastic straw lodged in its nostril. This is just one of many examples of how plastic can be harmful to the ocean ecosystem.

According to an article published by National Geographic, Americans use 500 million straws daily. Fortunately, we have seen many initiatives this year to reduce that number. One great example is Strawless in Seattle, a campaign by the Lonely Whale Foundation to replace single-use plastic straws with eco-friendly alternatives. The result of this campaign has been very positive with the city of Seattle announcing that disposable plastic straws and cutlery will be banned from food establishments as of July 1, 2018.

Plastic Bag Ban in Kenya

Sea turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish.

The fight against plastic bags has been around for some time, yet we still see many supermarkets handing over an unnecessary amount of plastic bags to consumers. Like straws, plastic bags can be harmful to marine life. For example, sea turtles are known to mistake plastic bags for one of their preferred food sources, jellyfish.

One country that has decided to enforce tough changes over the use of plastic bags is Kenya. Earlier this year, a law came into effect that makes it illegal for Kenyans to produce, sell, or use plastic bags. Those who go against the law may find themselves facing penalties of up to four years in prison and up to $40,000 in fines.

U.N. Resolution

Plastic pollution on Bournemouth beach.

On the 6th December 193 countries signed a U.N. resolution to eliminate plastic pollution in the sea. Under the resolution countries agreed to start monitoring the amount of plastic they put into the ocean and to explore ways to make it illegal to dump waste in the seas. While not legally binding, this pledge serves as a statement of intent and a first step toward greater action.

Banning Glitter

Glitter is a form of microplastic, which already has a widespread presence in the oceans.

Change doesn’t always have to occur at the national level. For example, a nursery chain in the UK decided to ban the use of glitter after learning about its impact. Glitter is a form of microplastic that can have fatal consequences for marine animals.

Plastic Oceans Album

In collaboration with some of the world’s greatest artists like Coldplay, Ed Sheeran, Beck, Bob Dylan and Beyonce, Rhythms Del Mundo is releasing the fundraising album: PLASTIC OCEANS. All proceeds from PLASTIC OCEANS will go towards marine conservation and climate change projects across the world, through Rhythms Del Mundo’s charity branch Artists Project Earth.

In addition to supporting these causes, you as an individual can also play a part in reducing plastic waste by replacing single-use plastic with eco-friendly alternatives. This infographic highlights a couple of tips you can follow starting today.

Sally Cameron is a passionate environmental conservationist. Watching Blue Planet II has inspired her to take action in spreading awareness about the negative impact of plastic waste. Follow Sally’s work on Facebook or on her blog Organic Lesson.