10 Things You Can Do to Turn the Tide on Plastic

Swimmer encounters plastic in the ocean. Photograph courtesy Ben Lecomte

Mary Anne Potts

For every share of the film Lines to Hawaii through December 21, 2017, ROAM donated 20 cents to Adventure Scientists.

Our human species’ addiction to plastic is causing one of the greatest threats to ocean health worldwide. Every year eight million metric tons find their way into the ocean. Because plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade, all of it exists in some form, transforming the oceans into what scientists have called “plastic soup.”

We at Roam learned this for ourselves on Travis Rice and Ian Walsh’s recent Lines to Hawaii adventure through remote parts of the Central Pacific. They took water samples every hundred miles along their route, a remote and pristine part of the Pacific that had not yet been studied. It turned out that 73 percent of their water samples contained microplastics.

“Microplastics are ubiquitous in our aquatic environment,” says Abby Barrows, principal investigator on Adventure Scientists’ global microplastics study who has analyzed thousands of water samples. “They have found them in every habitat that we’ve looked in, from the deepest trenches to remote sea ice in the Arctic to random spots along the sea surface of the Pacific.” Defined as particles less than five millimeters in size, microplastics shed from larger plastic pieces that have entered the oceans and pose a huge threat to marine life—and the extent to which is not yet known.

“Microplastics appear to be everywhere, and we still don’t quite understand what they’re doing,” says Barrows. “Because of their small size, they are not just actively ingested, but they’re passively ingested by all of these different animals. We still don’t understand those repercussions in terms of the physical impacts of ingesting microplastics to the chemical legacy that they may leave behind.”

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Lines to Hawaii – Day 14 – Hey all you Roamers. @Ian.walsh here. Our adventure turned into an expedition when we started taking water samples for @AdventureScientists. Since day 1 of this voyage, we have been collecting water samples roughly every 100 nautical miles to test for microplastics in the remote parts of the ocean we have been passing through. The ocean has been filling up with obvious plastic debit for years, and over these years they have been slowly breaking down into smaller (micro) pieces of plastic, which easily get consumed by marine life and eventually tear apart the ecosystem literally from the inside out. ?? ?? In order to combat this, we are playing a small part by collecting samples to increase the database of knowledge needed in order to truly provide solutions. #ourpart #stopsucking #lines2hi ?? What plastic have you seen in the ocean???

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Here are ten every day changes you can make to help turn the tide on plastics.

  1. 1. Stop using disposable plastics.
    Drinking straws, plastic bags, water bottles, food utensils, dry cleaning bags. Single-use plastics are all around us. Refusing to use them sends a message that we can no longer tolerate “disposable” plastic. Instead, bring your own non-disposable version.

2. Cook more.
It’s healthier, you’ll save money, and you will use less plastic compared to getting take-out or delivery. A win, win, win.

3. Recycle.
We know you already do this—thank you!

4. Wash microfiber clothing with care. Wear natural fibers instead.
When washed, microfiber clothing (including acrylic, nylon, and polyester) sheds microplastics directly into the water system. If you wear microfiber clothing, such as polar fleece or quick-drying athletic shirts, wash them with care. Find out more about caring for plastic-based textiles.

5. Boycott microbeads.
There is no beauty product so effective you need these little plastic beads to enter the water system. If you have products with microbeads, it’s better to throw them away than finish using them.

6. Support a bag tax or ban.
Bringing your own bags to the grocery store is great. Getting bags banned or taxed in your community is even better. For example, Telluride, Colorado, has a plastic bag ban.

7. Buy in bulk.
Avoid excess packaging by buying large quantities.

8. Put pressure on manufacturers.
Let manufacturers and store managers know you care about sustainable packaging and products.

9. Participate in a beach or river cleanup.
Help make a difference and get inspired than by cleaning up a local beach or riverfront.

10. Spread the word and get involved.
Take action locally to reduce single-use plastics in your community.

These are organizations working to make a difference.

Adventure Science



Plastic Pollution Coalition


Surfrider Foundation

Ocean Preservation Society



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