“In 2008, Marcus and I met on a sailing expedition to research pollution in the North Pacific Gyre. As we sailed from Hawaii to Los Angeles, we collected samples of broken down plastics tragically mixed with marine life. But at night, we saw something even more alarming. Small fish that surfaced nocturnally to feed were mistaking contaminated plastic waste for food. As these fish were consumed by larger predators, the toxins were working their way up the food chain—and onto our plates. We vowed to dedicate our lives to solving the problem, and to each other. After Marcus fashioned a ring from discarded fishing line that he pulled from the ocean, we got engaged on top of a floating garbage patch. Soon after, he left on a three-month voyage aboard JUNK RAFT, a boat kept afloat by 15,000 recycled plastic water bottles, raising awareness about plastic pollution and inspiring the launch of The 5 Gyres Institute.” –Anna Cummins, Co-Founder
Bring your own shopping bag. On average, a plastic bag is used for 12 minutes, yet they persist in our environment for decades. Plastic bags are difficult to recycle and clog up machines, light weight so they're easily transported by the wind and water, and they look like jelly fish in the ocean so they're mistaken for food by turtles.
Buy in bulk. Packaging now accounts for 25% of all plastic manufacturing. Buying bigger helps reduce the amount of plastic you consume.
Wear natural fabrics. All materials shed fibers, which escape filtration through wastewater and can end up in the ocean. Unlike wool and cotton, plastic microfibers from synthetic materials like nylon and spandex don't biodegrade. In cases where synthetics fabrics are unavoidable—think bathing suits—try to wash less frequently and by hand.
Carry a reusable water bottle. Seven out of every ten plastic bottles are trashed. Not only does a refillable bottle make good environmental sense, it’s good for your bank balance. Bottled water costs 2,000 times more than (filtered) tap water.
Refuse disposable straws. Americans use 500 million straws every day, which aren’t recyclable, end up in oceans, and kill marine animals. Plus they cause wrinkles. Who needs those?
Refuse lids. Americans use more than 25 billion expanded polystyrene foam—better known as "Styrofoam"—cups each year, and many lids are made from the same plastic. If you forget your reusable cup, order your coffee without a lid.
If you must use a single-use item, choose a material other than plastic. For example, aluminum is accepted at all curbside recycling in the United States; the material is currently 70% post consumer recycled content and holds its value at $2,100 per ton because there is such a strong market for it; although it is not typically marketed as reusable, it is safe to reuse. In contrast, only 60% of cartons are accepted through curbside recycling and those products are, on average, 30% post consumer recycled, with a market value of $55 per ton. Sadly, today only 19% of plastics are accepted at curbside, plastic products average only 3% average post consumer recycled material, and a ton is valued at just $6—while plastic takes up 18% of U.S. landfill space.