Environment

A Truckload of Plastic Enters Our Oceans Every Single Minute—This Has to Stop

Plastics are killing wildlife and harming our health. It's time for corporations to take responsibility for their packaging.

Plastic trash washed ashore after storm on Ocean Beach, San Francisco.
Photo Credit: Kevin Krejci/Flickr

Our ocean is facing a plastic pollution crisis. The equivalent of a truckload of plastic enters our oceans every single minute, every day, all year long. Not only are plastics entangling and killing marine life, they are ending up on our plates through the seafood we eat and polluting our tap water.

That’s incredibly frightening and should push us all to demand better.

More and more people are realizing that this is a crisis we must tackle urgently, but beach cleanups and recycling aren’t going to cut it. The scale of the issue is far too large for us to focus our efforts on waste management alone.

In fact, since the 1950s, only 9 percent of the plastics created have been recycled. And China's recent ban on foreign waste makes our country's plastics addiction even more urgent. We can no longer rely on another country to bail us out—no more “out of sight, out of mind.”

It's time for the corporations responsible for the continuous flow of plastic packaging and products into our lives (and the ocean) to step up and limit the production of single-use plastics. It’s not up to us to clean up their mess. And while many of us do everything in our power to avoid plastic packaging or recycle, it’s just not stopping the avalanche of plastic junk companies push at us.

Thankfully, all over the globe, people are starting to push back. From massive beach art pieces in Europe to ridiculous packaging photos on social media to a hot air balloon at EarthX in Texas, activists and change agents are calling for companies to #BreakFreeFromPlastic. That doesn’t mean corporations get by with plans to add more recycling options or false “biodegradable” bottles, it means reducing the amount of plastic they produce. No more excuses.

Earth Day has become an opportunity for many corporations to tout their greenwashing efforts and encourage people to recycle more. This Earth Day, we’re flipping the narrative and demanding that corporations take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products—that means when plastic packaging leaves a store or restaurant, they’re still responsible for where it ends up.

Any beach cleanup should include documenting the brands found in nature and the companies responsible for making it. We need to think creatively—calling out corporations for excessive packaging on social media, using return-to-sender tactics to let them deal with the waste they produce, and urging restaurants and local stores to ditch throwaway plastics for good.

These actions can add up to make a real difference for our oceans, and for our communities. Because not only are these plastic-dependent corporations trashing our oceans, they are polluting low-income communities throughout the world, starting at extraction and refining all the way to the disposal process. Corporations should not be treating entire communities as disposable to advance cheap, throwaway products.

Together, we can and must demand better from corporations. One way is to show up to the March for the Ocean on June 9th, wear blue and show support for all the great organizations and people working hard to protect our oceans. And join Greenpeace to create a “Million Acts of Blue” for a plastic-free future. Inspired by love of our amazing blue planet and the urgent need to protect our oceans, waterways, and communities, together we will turn the tide on plastic pollution by taking action to stop single-use plastic from being created in the first place.

We hope you’ll join us—in the streets, on social media, and in local stores and restaurants—to call out corporations for their role in our plastic pollution crisis. Our oceans, waterways, and people are depending on it.

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Kate Melges is Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace USA.